Plant Harmony
Our task was to design a physical device or system that enhances the relationship between plants and humans. Based on initial interviews, we wanted to create an experience to help expert gardeners plan their gardens.

Our final solution is an augmented reality system centered around goggles that project plant images, soil information, and overall compatibility with the ground and surrounding plants. This system helps gardeners understand future states of their garden. Gardeners have the ability to learn and understand the relationships between plants and surroundings by utilizing live data from the ground to enhance their decision making.

We were encouraged to create a conceptual vision of the future for gardeners and their planting.

Concept Sketch:


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SOLUTION DETAIL

The gardener "plants" sensor stems into the ground where he intends to place each plant. On top of each stem he chooses a leaf-tag that corresponds to the intended plant. The stem has soil sensors to detect moisture and pH, which are the most critical pieces of information to gather.

The goggles view the unique tag on each and interpret the type of plant, and project the appropriate image to show the gardener what could be there. If changes are needed, the gardener can rearrange and adjust the garden layout and composition by changing the tags and seeing the results in real-time.

By default, the user will see all plants mature at the same time to best assist with physical arrangement. However, the goggles themselves have a control wheel which, when moved from it's original position, changes the view to a timeline mode where the gardener can view different months in the future when the plants will bloom. Since so many plants have different blooming times, this information is crucial whether for flower gardens to look their best or for vegetable gardens to be ready at the appropriate times.

The only other control present on the goggles is a single, touch-sensitive button on the top of the goggles. This control is to take a still image of the garden as viewed by the gardener and take note of all the plants in view. The image and plant information are sent via email for the user to take to the store to buy plants or supporting supporting supplies (plant food, tools, etc.)

The system consist of a few separate parts that work together:

Sensor Stems:
These special stems contain sensors to test moisture, temperature, and pH. User interviews indicated these pieces of information were most critical to effective gardening.

Leaf Codes:
Naturally colored, leaf shaped sheets with plant names are inserted into the stems and provide a visual marker for each plant. The leaf has a specially drawn code for the variety of plant embedded in the lead vein design. The leaves provide visual information about the location of each plant.

Goggles:
By interpreting radio signals from the stems and coordinating with the graphic codes on the leaves, the goggles project an image indicating plant health potential.

Features:
-Marker leaves don't stick out as technology
-marker leaves are low-cost, printable
-users can interact with the stems as they would normal plants, by walking around garden and placing stems where they want to.
Plant leaves have labels
-The goggles are worn to allow user to keep technology out of the garden.
-Users don't have to hold any extra tools, already enough to carry.
Don't want a cyber garden
-unlike other things brought out the garden, glassess don't have as much risk of getting forgotten, dirty, or broken.
-The goggles can show future states all at once or can project the changes over time to give an understanding of how the plants will grow together.

We worked on integrating the technology into current tools, but we found it difficult to pick one physical form design that fit into all gardeners' workflows.


RESEARCH

We decided to target expert gardeners, who have great relationships with their plants but need more effective tools to care for them. We wanted to provide a resource to both aesthetic and functional gardening because our research indicated there was not always a clear line between these two kinds. Our design is the result of several forms of research exploring the needs of gardeners, both professionals and hobbyists, as well as the existing commercial product space.

User Interviews
For our user research, we interviewed five gardeners with a combined experience of more than 45 years. We learned about the difficulties of planning a garden and collected feedback on gardening products. We also visited Pittsburgh's Phipps Conservatory to search for insights about plant growing in a professional environment.


SYNTHESIS

The need for help with planning is the primary need across all users. Even expert users need help in this area. It is not easy to see what a plant would look like in a location before planting it.

Gardeners need to know:
How big does it get?
How much room does it need?
What color is it?
Will it thrive in that location?
What is the soil like?
Will it get along with neighboring plants?

Sketching and constructing craft examples were a critical part of sorting through ideas and evaluating with gardeners via "speed-dating" the concepts.



Competitive Analysis
Current planning tools that attempt to facilitate planning through customization and visualization. However all are two-dimensional representations of the garden, usually segmented into grids where you can place flowers that take up 1 square or 2 squares. The plants must be chosen by finding in a list. Examples: BBC- Design your garden, Better Homes & Gardens - Garden plan finder, Plan-a-Garden.


by James Mulholland, Julie Bai, John Horstman, Mauricio Giraldo Arteaga
Coursework for Basic Interaction Design
Masters of Human-Computer Interaction
Carnegie Mellon University, Spring 2011