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Innovation Design Engineering (MA/MSC)

Yuning Chan

Yuning is a creative exploring in the intersection of biology, design and art. With a background in environmental science, she has been driven by working with nature. Inspired by ecocentrism and object-oriented ontology, she applies Bio-HCI, experimental and discursive design methods to mediate new intimacy between human and nature.

Plant Reality Set is a journey in search of an alternative worldview unbound by a human-centred perspective. Living in a perceptual reality shaped by our limited sensibilities, I can't help being curious about how the world is like from other species' eyes. If we could expand our spectrum of reality, would it also expand our spectrum of empathy?

Inspired by embodied cognition and sensory substitution models, Plant Reality Set is a set of wearables that take you to the world of a rooted organism. Being sessile, plants need to constantly sample and adapt to the minuscule environmental fluctuations, which results in a uniquely intimate relationship with the ecosystem. Wearing Plant Reality Set, you can attend to and harmonise with the flows of nature like a plant.

The set consists of three sensations, including Touch Symphony, the Taste of Light and Root Acoustic. Capturing a miniature of a plant’s essential perception, they also represent a gradual scaling-up process of sensing spaces while rooted in one place.

Plant Reality Set

Plant Reality Set is a set of wearables that take you to the perceptual world of a rooted organism. Inspired by ecocentrism, this set challenges an anthropocentric worldview and explores empathy beyond humanity with experiences that walk into the shoe of our fellow lifeform.

The set consists of three sensations, including Touch Symphony, the Taste of Light and Root Acoustic. Capturing a miniature of a plant’s essential perception, they also represent a gradual scaling-up process of sensing spaces while rooted in one place.

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Touch Symphony — Plants live in a very tactile world; every stimulus can result in streams of intercellular electric signals. To mimic the distributed touch sensation of a plant, Touch Symphony is a series of units that mediate similar waves of signals on different parts of your body. And subsequently, the waves fade when you synchronise with them through your body movements.
The Taste of Light — Light can be seen as the food of plant each spectrum is mapped into taste based on their contribution to photosynthesis. Wearing the Light Tasting Unit, people can taste the flow of light using their hands exploring the space.
Root Acoustic — Plant root uses acoustic sensation to locate the water source. Root Acoustic Unit takes you to their perspective-you can listen to the dynamics of water sound when you interact with the soil.
Distributed Touch Experiment — When one part of the unit is sensing a vibration, the same signal will be sent to the rest of the units on various parts of participants' skin areas.
Remapping of a Breeze — Sketches of shapes and waveform of the same stimuli interpreted by different skin areas, showing the various sensibilities and ‘imagination’ of them. According to studies, our tactile sensibility is highly unevenly distributed. This means when we use all of them to explore the environment, a new modality of tactile experience will be formed.
Light Unit Experiment — Tasting the light in the space, participants sketch out the light traces and find their favourite taste in the space.
Remapping of the Light Space — A remapping of different wavelength of light in the space and people's favourite postures in the space, which links to a specific distribution of light spectrums.
Root Experiment Configuration — Mapping the soil contact area with bass, mid and treble spectrums of an underwater sound clip, the root unit mimics the journey of plant root searching for water through acoustic sensation.
Root Unit Experiment — I let people wear a foot wearable and interact with the soil while physically 'root' in one place. They can hear shifting water sounds when they move their feet.
Remapping of The Soil — While the change of sound pitch gives people a sense of depth underground, the interaction also evokes a series of vivid imaginations. Here are the colours and textures people used to describe their 'underground journey'.
PCB Sketch
Prototyping