Spore 

From human-centered to life-centered-design

Solution

 

Spore helps houseplants and individuals to meet as equals: Instead of creating yet another gardening gadget that informs the owner about the plant's vital needs, we wanted to explore how they communicate their presence as living beings. So we created a product that allows exploring the plant's activity, communication and wellbeing through different sound landscapes.

Approach

 

User-centred and human-centred design had its time and place in history. Facing the current environmental crisis we have to accept that the world consists not only of the human species but also of many many more. Designing only with the human perspective in mind has put us in the situation we find ourselves in today. Thus it is crucial that we start thinking about how design could become a tool that serves different lifeforms and different ecosystems.

Details 

 

University: Umea Institute of Design

Course: Sound Design

Year: 2020 

Duration: 2 weeks

Team: Inna Zrajaeva, Viggo Blomqvist 

Bastian Reichhardt

The concept

Spore is a device that can be used by one plant at a time. This way the human can focus on the a single plant and give it more attention. The use of Spore is as a meditative and calming action that focuses on a poetic experience rather than on pure usability.

How it works

Spore consists of 3 parts: a sensor unit, the speaker and a charging tray. 

Both the speaker and the sensor can be charged on the tray. To use Spore the sensor is positioned inside the soil of the selected plant. The product can be used for many plants but only one plant at a time. By placing the sensor in the pot, both sensor and speaker activate and connect. The volume of the different channels can be adjusted on the turntable rings of the speaker.

Interactions

The idea was to make the interaction as minimal as possible. There are no on or off buttons, the sensor activates when it is put in contact with soil. Then it sends out a signal to the speaker and the devices connect. There are 3 rings on the speaker, each representing a channel. Each channel can be amplified separately or can blend into one sound curtain.
This enables the human to have a more analytical listening experience.

Stick the probe into the soil

Pair the probe with the speaker

The probe is analysing the plant's activity

Soundlandscapes

The entire project was focused on working with sound as a design element. The idea was to create a mediator between plants and humans. Instead of creating an interface that directly asses the plant's health, Spore is intended to create channels of understanding between a plant and a person through auditory feedback.

Photosynthesis 

Sugar production

Oxygen rate 

Light amount

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Growth 

Nutrition available

Cell multiplication 

Root expansion 

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Plant mood

Temperature 

Hydration 

Infestation 

Creating the sounds

We worked to understand how different kinds of plant activity could sound and how the behaviour of the sounds would change. Keeping the physical interface of the product as simple as possible enabled us to focus on the potential of sound as an interface.

Photosynthesis

Soprano

Growth

Bass

Mezzo

Plant mood

Explorations

Within the project we tried to step back from the human centred perspective and also reflect on the position and needs of plants. A lot of our decisions were based on that this multi-perspective thinking. At the same time it was very insightful to and helped us to embrace a deeper recognition of another species as a user in the design.

testing the plant's activity with electronics

recording organic sounds with natural materials

making the model

painting the model

producing and editing the sounds

Soft Tech

Spore has a ceramic aesthetic to emphasize fragility, the connection to the earth and a reference to the context indoor plants usually exist in. We also wanted to celebrate imperfections in the design. We took inspiration for the design from tea sets as we wanted to create a similar interaction of taking time for a simple rewarding task.

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