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  • Understand

On my way back from the aforementioned interview, I remembered another object that I held really dear to myself years ago; the Tamagotchi. I recalled the days I walked around the neighbourhood with a virtual pet and how it felt. The interactions I remembered were limited but pleasing. You took care of your virtual pet and tried to keep it happy by feeding it and playing simple games with it. 

I wanted to replicate a similar feeling with my enchanted house plant. So, to refresh my memories on how Tamagotchis work, I bought one from Amazon and walked around with a virtual pet in my pocket. I studied the ways you interacted with it and how the pet asked for attention from the player.

What I found out is that there are 6 different actions you can take to interact with a Tamagotchi pet which includes feeding it, cleaning after it, scolding it or playing a simple number guessing game with it. The main actions necessary to keep it happy is feeding and playing the game with it. I thought that these simple but effective interactions can be the guiding examples for this project. 

On the other hand, I found out the hard way that these toys were actually a little intrusive back in the day. The virtual pet asks for your attention at random intervals by playing a very annoying beep sound until you do what it says. This happened to me during class a couple times and I got some weird looks as I was attending my virtual pet. I concluded that my project should communicate with the players in a more ambient display style rather than demanding immediate attention if it's not needed. 

In addition to my Tamagotchi experiment, I also compiled a list of articles and papers on human-plant interaction and went through some of them to understand what has been done in the area. You can find the articles I came across at "Further Readings" listed down below. 

  • Define

Meanwhile, I also acquired a small house plant to observe. A lovely little weeping fig plant, ficus benjamina. I used the experience I got from playing with a Tamagotchi for a couple days to come up with interactions for my enchanted plant. Most of the actions available for the toy was focused on taking care of the virtual pet. There was only one action that helped you to play a game with it. Therefore, I focused on the needs of my plant at this stage.

I isolated 3 key aspects to look into: Soil moisture, Room Temperature, Room illuminance. The idea was to monitor these conditions and present the residents with actionable reminders. I also concluded that unlike the Tamagotchi, the reminders should be simple, noticeable and timely. Because it doesn't make sense to notify the residents excessively or when they aren't at around. So the problem boiled down to getting the information about the three aspects mentioned above and turning them into non-intrusive notifications for the residents. 

  • Generate

Considering the tools and components that were readily available I came up with the schematic below. It uses 3 sensors to monitor the state of the plant and another one to monitor the movement around the plant. The goal is to flash the RGB Neopixel when one of the sensors detects unhealthy conditions for the plant, but only when someone is around.  

For each unhealthy condition; namely low soil moisture, unfit room temperature or not enough light, I dedicated one unique colour: RED for temperature alert, MAGENTA for soil moisture and ORANGE for low luminescence. I used the info card that came with the plant to set the necessary numbers for these alerts. 

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