Partner: Maudie Carey
For Maudie and I’s final project, we decided to do a continuation of our midterm. After receiving much helpful feedback from user testing for our final and learning new material in class, we decided we could really improve our midterm.
What Our Midterm Was and What We Wanted to Change
Our midterm was a flower meant for people to who wanted to take care of a plant, but didn’t want to face the consequences of possibly killing a real plant. In the midterm, we had the plant rotate based on light values it was receiving, while an animation of the sun was playing in the background. Additionally, we had the flower that was wilting raise when you “watered” it that also had an animation of rain playing based on moisture values.
A lot of the feedback we heard about the project was about how people couldn’t really see/focus on the animations because they were so engrossed with the physical reactions of the plant and how it would be nice if the animations were more realistic. With this feedback in mind, Maudie and I decide to make the following changes for the final:
- change our animations to make them more realistic and work better
- take out the physical changes of the flower so users could focus more on the animations
- somehow add wind/sound into the project
- make movable curtains
- project our animations
Sadly, we were unable to add the last two changes into our project but we were able to achieve the first three, which will be discussed in the rest of the documentation.
Arduino and Moisture Sensor
- moisture sensor
- cable wires
Because in the midterm I handled most of the moisture sensor and rain aspects of the project, I mostly just used code from the midterm. However, because I no longer needed a servo, I took out the code for that. So in terms of coding, the work was very simple.
But as I was working with the moisture sensor, I was reminded of how fickle/annoying it was to work with the values. One of the main issues I ran into in the midterm was how inconsistent the moisture values were because no one could tell how much water a user would spray on the plant, or how well I was able to dry the moisture sensor. I really wanted to fix this problem in the midterm, and Maudie helped come up with the solution which I’ll discuss later in the documentation.
For the work with Processing, my work was divided into two parts: fixing the water animation and creating an animation that related to sound and wind.
Originally, Maudie and I thought we could incorporate wind into the project by having an animation of a flower sway when the user blows into the microphone. After discussing the idea, we came across the question of “how are we going to make users intuitively know to blow into the microphone”. So, we changed out idea into blowing away a pesky bug. After researching, I found that white flies are harmful to plants because they suck on the plant and make the plant get sick. So, I decided to use a picture of white flies that would be blown away but would continuously come back.
I started working on the code for making the flies move. What I had set in mind was that the flies would come in from the edge of the screen, flying towards the center where the flower would be. Initially I was using an array to make multiple flies, but I didn’t know how I would make each individual fly be positioned and move in a specific way. During recitation, I asked Tristan for help and we had to use a lot of trigonometry to figure out the formula to get the flies to face the center.
After getting the flies to face the direction I wanted them to be, I needed help on getting each fly to move towards the center. I set up an appointment with Antonius but after explaining what I was doing, he told me that I was going about this idea in a much more complicated way. He suggested that I use objects and classes for my coding, and proceeded to do an example with me so that I could understand. After the appointment, I looked at the code that we did together and replaced the necessary changes so that it fit what I needed with sound and flies. Although the animation was different from what I had in mind, this animation was a lot more realistic to how flies behave (which is super gross). Below is a video of getting the flies to work.
Now that I finished the code for the flies, I sent them to Maudie because we had to place the flies on her screen since she was the sky.
The second part of what I had to do was fix the animation for the water sensor. Originally, I had an overhead view of the grass and raindrops fell down based on the moisture sensor values. Although I thought this animation was very pretty, I decided to scrap it altogether and replace it with an animation that looked like a cross-section of the flower pot in order to give it a much more realistic and immersive look. The coding for this was fairly simple since it was a lot of images. I took a picture of the pot and the table of the IMA desks so that what was on the screen reflected real life. I photoshopped some roots together and put that into Processing also. The only thing that was not an image was the soil in the pot, which got darker the wetter the roots got. I also decided to add a photo of rain that would appear on the roots when the user started watering the plant to give an immediate indication to the user that what they were doing was working.
At this point, Maudie and I had gotten the bulk of what we needed to do finished, so we got some people to test our project. One of our users was of course, Antonius, and he told us that it was really nice how users were able to control the environment. But one of his suggestions was to also get the environment to change based off the moisture sensor values on Maudie’s screen, and not just mine. So, with his advice, we got another moisture sensor for Maudie’s project and she wrote code to make it rain on the screen when users watered the plant.
Building the Display and User Testing
Now that all the coding and circuitry was done, Maudie and I started making the display to put our project together. We kept the display very simple because we wanted people to focus on the screens the most and not be distracted by other things (RIP curtains). We also bought polymer clay to make the dirt and flower stem since it looked nice, and put it all together, as you can see in the photos below.
With the display finished, we had completed our final project!
The next step was to get people to actually test our finished project. Jerry was the first to use our project and gave us good feedback. But going back to the moisture value problem, as Jerry was using the project, we were still running into problems with inconsistent moisture values. Maudie then suggested that we just dip the moisture sensor in a cup of water so that there was a clear difference in moisture values when its completely wet as opposed to making the moisture sensor a little wet. So thanks to Maudie, this part of the project was completely settled.
After asking people to test our project, the main feedback we got was adding instructions to the project, which was also the same feedback we got when we were presenting in class. So, Maudie created a little sign that had instructions for users to read.
Now that we had instructions, we were ready for the IMA show. Maudie and I received a lot of positive feedback for our project, which made us really happy and excited because this project was almost an entire semester in the making. The best part of the show was probably the reactions of little kids playing with the project and seeing how some of their faces lit up when they saw the animations.
Takeaways and Final Comments
There were a lot of lessons learned during the project. Some major ones were:
- patience (not everything goes the way you planned and coding can be very frustrating at times)
- more is not always better
- there are multiple ways to do things, with some ways being easier than others
- you really have to get in the mind of a user to understand what would/wouldn’t appeal to a user
It was really crazy hearing people at the IMA show say we should make our project a product and sell it. But hearing that made me really happy that we decided to work on our midterm because we felt that there was a lot to improve on in the project. I guess if we were to keep working on the project more, it would be to add more features since that was one thing people said they would like and just making the animations more seamless.
It’s been a really fun semester in Interaction lab and thank you sooo much to all the fellows and professors who have helped with their help and instructions. Special thanks to Antonius for always being very patient and supportive of our work and for being an awesome professor 🙂