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READING NATURE

A HYGROMETER POWERED BY PLANTS MECHANISMS

2020-2021 | An ongoing research I initiated with Prof. Rivka Elbaum, the Lab of Plant Sciences and Genetics in Agriculture, Faculty of Agriculture, The Hebrew University

Can nature be a language we speak? The linguistic revolution allowed people to talk to each other and share what was on their minds, cooperate, and carry out complex tasks like never before. I believe that if we could speak the right language, we could cooperate with our surroundings better, learn, and enhance natural HCI through science and biology.

 

During my time at the lab, I have learned that various seeds’ movement is controlled by humidity level, where low humidity brings contraction of the seed and high humidity causes it to expand and move. Watching the plants, I realized that many of them do not only sense and measure the humidity, but also transmit this information through their motion. They were telling me the statistics in a language I could not yet speak. At this point, I decided to decode nature, to find a way to read this movement and translate it into tangible, readable, and useful data. Harnessing the natural distribution mechanism of the Stork's-Bills to create a biologic hygrometer.

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The seed's movement on the platform

Designing this organic user interface, I was looking for the right platform to allow the interaction. I explored various materials and surfaces and once I found the right one, which enabled the plant to move freely while also noticeably and precisely preserving its footprints, I was able to trace back the steps and extract the data.

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Light mode to read the footprints

To convert the footprint into the digital world, I chose to use software built to extract numerical data from plots and graph images, and alter it to my needs. I realized that the seed was moving on two main axes, like an XY linear graph, and that two parallel lines are formed, one from the tip of the seed and one from its expanding antenna. I used the software to map both traces and then compared them to meteorological humidity data of that time to decipher the chart.

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Automeris software, a tool to extract numerical data from plots and graph images. Marking of axes and paths and analyzing them

My research allows two short learning curves, one for machines and one for humans. By detecting the footprints and comparing them to existing data, the computer gradually learns how to encrypt the movement without using outer-sources. And as for humans, the more digital reports they read, the more fluent they are in the natural language, and the better they can correlate between the footprints and the humidity percentage in the air, to the point of not needing the software at all to speak the language.

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Stork's-Bills, uncoils and recoils in accordance with the humidity

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Because of the spiral motion of the seed, I attempted to position it in the air and let it uncoil this way

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The seed’s tip painted the paper around it while uncoiling, however, the ink made the seed move a bit faster thus produced an inaccurate measure

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Since I noticed that the seed expands into a rather straight line, I tried measuring it through guiding loops. However, multiple attempts resulted

differently, each time and also the seed occasionally escaped the wire

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Exploring loose surface, which produced a more accurate and noticeable result

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An attempt to record the movement by exposing layers beneath charcoal powder, the result was clear but too messy

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Experimenting with light and contrast to make the footprints readable