November 24, 2007
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October 2, 2007
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May 24, 2008
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Beyond a home decoration: an interactive potted plant for caring your beloved

Project Members: 
Emelie Cheng
Kenghao Chang
Sheng-Ying Pao

In this progress report, we present scenarios and skethes that a user can interact with the "interative potted plant" to pass our care and love to the remote beloved.



Originally, the project was called an "Affective Bear", which is an interactive stuffed bear that provides a tangible interface for communication and medical care. This stuffed bear is used to represent the mental and physiological status of a remote friend, family member, or beloved. For example, when the bear is lowering its head, it represents the other is feeling low. To show care for the remote others, you can interact with the stuffed bear and the system would trigger feedbacks in the remote site to cheer her up. For example, by touching the bear's head, relaxing music would be played remotely.

However, we have changed our project direction; we changed the interactive bear to an interactive potted plant. Because we were concerned that some people like grown-up men may be reluctant to interact with a stuffed bear and they may feel embarassed to let others know they have a bear in their rooms, a potted plant, instead, is a relatively neutral and acceptable object. Nonetheless, a neutral object doesn't mean people cannot show care with it: the interaction of watering plant can be used as a metaphor of care; dried-up and yellow leaves can represent unattended and bad mood; green leaves can represent vitality and good mood. There are lots of possiblities with the potted plant; it can be more than a home decoration. The potted plant is not only served as an representation of user's emotions, but also an media for long-distance users to interact with each other. We use EEG to detect specific emotions. For example, it is known that the frontal EEG assymetry represents depression. We will focus especially on emotions with significant EEG patterns, such as depression and anxiety disorders.

Interaction scenarios

There is a pair of potted plants: one plant is placed in the remote and the other is placed locally. When the local user is in depressed, the leaves of the both plants would wither ( shown in brown and drooping leaves), which tells the remote users that the local user needs his/her care. Then, the remote user can interact with the local user through the plant: By watering the plant, the leaves of local plant would turn green, which makes the depressed person knows that somebody is paying attention to him/her. At the same time the watering action may trigger the local plant to emit music to ease the local user's depression.



In addition to watering the plant, the remote user cansend message The message to the local user via the plant. When remote user send a message, a fruit on the local plant will drop. Local user pick up the fruit, open it, and read the message inside it. An alternative way to represent the message is by directly showing the text with the LCD lights attached around the pot.


After the interactions between the users and plant, the local user is cheered up. When he/she no longer feels depressed, the plants will receive the non-depressed EEG signals and bloom again.


Comments from TUI Teaching Team

From Dave: Very nice work with your sketches. One design decision which you guys should consider in some depth is whether or not a person's emotions should be sensed automatically or whether or not the person should have control over how he/she present emotion.

From Kimiko:
I agree, a potted plant may be more “neutral” object than a teddy bear. Are you proposing to use real plants? Using a live plant as a display is very difficult to do. First, the kind of changes you’ve proposed (turning yellow, falling leaves, blossoming, etc.) will take several days or even months. Second, even if you had a set of clone plants, if they were placed in two different environments, it is very difficult to control the wellbeing of the plants to be exactly the same. More importantly, I am not sure if I understand the interaction. Just because I water my plant, it does not mean that I think about my partner. I water my plan for the wellbeing of the plant, not for the wellbeing of the person I am monitoring. Likewise, if I am watering my plant regularly, why should my plant turn brown just because the other person is depressed (and does not water his plant)? In other words, I am not sure if this mapping of [ watering – wellbeing of the plant? – wellbeing of the person? ] is working. For your presentation, be prepared to present and discuss compelling use case scenarios and/or user journey that evolve over time.

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