Plant sounds is an interactive audio installation where the generated sounds are sourced from different plant signals.

Plants exist on a far slower time scales than humans. They are, however, not static: they grow, they absorb water and light, and so they must respond to changes in their environment: humidity of the soil, temperature, light, touch. This project uses biosensing electrodes, a front-end amplifier circuit and an Arduino to convert a peace lily’s “state” or “mood” into a form transmittable to a computer. It is then represented through synthesised sounds, primarily as a variation in frequency.

Installation by Thomas V. Christie[1]. Electronics by Marc-Alexandre Chan[2] and Thomas V. Christie[2]. Video by James Bourque. This project was funded in part by the Fine Arts Reading Room.

[1] Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Concordia University. Student member of IEEE, IEEE Concordia Student Branch.

[2] Department of Music, Concordia University.

Technology

The project primarily involved front-end amplifier design (analog electronics). We used commercial Ag/AgCl wet electrodes to capture ionic signals from the plant, representing its reaction to environment like light, temperature or injury, and passed those signals through a front-end instrumentation amplifier to obtain a usable signal level. With the same electrodes we measured differential resistance, which represents changes to the plant’s state of hydration over time. We used an Arduino’s ADC to convert these signals into digital form, and sent that to a computer over USB.

Using MaxMSP, we created a sound patch that could react to these signals as they change.

One of the major challenges of this project was dealing with electromagnetic interference due to the high source impedance of the electrodes and long wires to the circuit.

Photo Gallery

  • Authors Thomas Christie, Marc-Alexandre Chan (IEEE)
  • Disciplines Biotechnology; sensors; analog; Arduino
  • Timeframe Winter 2015