What is Perach
Perach is a bio-sensing platform that allows users to feel and see the interior happenings of their plants. Perach aims to understand if a new form of human-plant interaction will form a closer relationship and make us more attentive to our plants, thus increasing the care relationship with our environment. This project was done during my research in the human-computer interaction M.a program at the Milab.
The platform is made of a multi-sensor IoT device (bioimpedance sensor, soil sensor, light, EMG, and more ), and an app to enable humans to feel, hear, and see the biological changes happening inside plants and form a continuous communication between humans and plants.
Perach was inspired by projects in the field of haptic feedback that allows users to sense other entities or even external events such as weather changes or to increase the mutual care between two people by feeling one’s heart bit.
Environmental care has shown to have a significant impact on our state of well-being as it increases our sense of belonging, our sense of place, and our sense of control. Nature-based therapy is the field of occupational therapy, originated after World War One to treat PTSD soldiers from the experience of war. Over the years, it has been shown that interacting with nature positively impacts our state of well-being and overall psychological state. Research in the field has shown that people that have taken part in environmental care activity developed a more profound attachment and sense of place and had a more profound state of well-being, this is highly related to the fact that nature is suited to our biological attention levels, wich making us feel calm and relaxed and more in place.
This project’s goal was to understand how to form a communication channel between two biological entities. using different types of feedback and the concept of bioSensors to investigate if it could strengthen the relationship between humans and plants to form a better everyday environmental care relationship, as Haptic feedback proved to do so with human to human and human-machine communication.
Our understanding of plants
Plants, like all life forms, communicate constantly, but in a different way than humans. Our understanding of plants is mostly limited to superficial features such as color changes or leaves dropping, but plants can communicate via fungi end electricity, some even claiming that plants can communicate by sound. By tapping into the electrical happenings inside plants, this project attempted to convey this information to humans in a tangible way.
The idea behind this project was to investigate how technology can enable us to reach out to other life forms and gain an understanding of how understanding other life forms can ultimately help us to understand ourselves and our surroundings.
Using Plants to generate visuals and music
During the exploratory phase of this project, I investigated different methods to enhance the biological data coming from the plants using generative visuals, haptic feedback via vibrations, and even music controlled by the plant’s data, after the project was done I formed a collaboration with visual artists — Ronen Tanchum and phenomena labs, and this project has appeared in the — Eretz Israel Museum
Electricity and plants
This part is a bit technical but summarizes a bit of the insight I discovered along the way.
Electromyography and plants
EMG/Electromyography is good enough for the detection of events (fire/light changes). In order to interpret the data correctly, you need to make a notch filter to cancel 50–48 Hz noise. Electromyography does not indicate or show the plant's status or biological changes over time, essentially letting us see only certain types of events.
Bioelectrical Impedance and plants
Bioelectrical impedance analysis is a commonly used method for estimating body composition.
A weak electric current flows through the body at different frequencies and the voltage is measured in order to calculate the impedance of the body.
plant tissue impedance basically depends on three factors
- Intracellular (symplastic) resistance.
- Intercellular (apoplastic or extracellular) resistance.
- Impedance of the cell membrane.
With bioimpedance you can understand a few things regarding the plant’s physiological status:
- Temperature level
- Water level
- Nutrients level
Here are some of the findings I found in academic research
“The parameters of EIS (Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy) are also suitable for the estimation of nutrient supply in plants. Phosphorous deﬁciency causes a more pronounced increase in the resistance values than potas-sium deﬁciency (Greenham et al. 1972)….
The effects of irradiation can also be followed by impedance parameters. Felf¨oldi et al. (1993) observed that at 50 kHz the ratio of the magnitude of the measured impedance grows as the irradiation time is longer when compared to the values measured at 5 kHz. …
Membrane injuries caused by heat (Zhang et al. 1993) and frost (Zhang and Willison 1992; Repo et al. 1994, 2000) stress have also been studied using EIS. Moreover, mechanically broken membrane structure can also be detected by changes in different EIS parameters (Cox et al. 1993; Voza´ry et al. 1999)….
The plant water status was measured using EIS: a pair of electrocardiogram (ECG) electrodes connected to an impedance analyzer board was used to measure the impedance value of the leaf samples non-invasively. Evapotranspiration replacement (ER) treatment was: 100%; well watered, 75%, moderate water stress, 50%; high water stress and 25%; severe water stress…
The results showed that after 20 weeks of treatment, 25% ER had the highest impedance value ranged from 0.10 to 0.15 MX at the frequency of 70–100 kHz. They attributed these results to thehigher resistance of less-irrigated plants and proposed EIS as an in situ and simple measurement technique for plant water status measurement (Jamaludin et al. 2015).”
During this project, I collected data and built a database for plant biological data to train machine learning models in order to predict and understand the plant’s status and needs in real-time.
In recent years we can see a trend on the rise of well-being technologies as an indicator of change in perception of what technology could or should be. From mindfulness and meditation apps to self-improvement and technology reduction systems. This project originated from an idea to look at how we can use technology to contact and understand other life forms, and eventually grew to focus on how by understanding the other and investing in that relationship it can improve our well-being and eventually ourselves. This insight of self-care through plant care or environmental care is the essence of this pursuit for technological poetry.