Floral Automaton – Digital growth with physical adaptation

Created by Thomas Grogan, ‘Floral Automaton’ is a sculptural device that grows flowers digitally. Using various sensors taken from Smart Cities technologies, it reacts and adapts itself to its environment in real time.

The installation is comprised of sensors that behave like instruments that translate chemical or mechanical stimuli such as light, temperature, gas concentration, speed and vibration across analogue and digital sensors into electrical resistors and voltage signal. By using the information collected by several sensors, Floral Automaton interprets our physical ‘decor’ to generate a computational environment.

Enclosed within a 2.5 by 2.2 meters frame of steel, various electronic components are attached to a 2.3mm galvanised wire rope. Each of those components is programmed to preserve a balanced meteorological condition in order to display ‘4K time-lapse videos’ of blooming flowers. The information collected by the device becomes a material to mimic biological processes and question the authenticity of our surroundings. Floral Automaton explores how environments become programmable and are made to be operational through sensor technologies. It imagined as a response to the current trends for environmental programmability and computational environments.

Two waspmotes, boxes to which the sensors are attached, are placed outside to get data from the ambient CO2, temperature, humidity and luminosity levels. The collected data is then sent to a gateway fixed on the metal structure of the device placed inside. A raspberry Pi reads the information collected by the sensors through the wifi network of the gateway and controls the electronic components attached to the device directly or through an Arduino Uno and a MOSFETS board.

The higher the temperature gets the faster the computers fans will blow air, the lower the luminosity is the brighter the floodlights will be, the higher the CO2 level is the louder the speakers playing bird sounds will be and if the humidity isn’t high enough the water cooling pump will be activated. Finally, if these values are appropriate for flowers to grow, the video on the screens showing time-lapse of blooming flowers will be played faster.

This project has been programmed using Node-Red and AGILE-IOT (an open source gateway software for IOT sensors) for which Thomas has received the generous help of Frank Kolkman.

Project Page | Thomas Grogan

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