Sound Design Course
Umeå Institute of Design
Anders Sandström (APD)
Benjamin Lee (IxD)
Siddharth Hirwani (IxD)
Joint project between Advanced Product Design and Interaction Design students
How might we use sound to aid people in caring for their plants?
Pontus is a plant's voice and expression.
The hardest part of owning and caring for a plant is interpreting it's needs. Through sound, we created a way for people to understand them, just as they might do with a pet.
Pontus will only address the user when physically present because that is when something can actually be done about it's needs.
Adding an expression to a plant that is reminiscent of human-animal communication makes it easier for us to understand their needs.
Pontus still requires interpretation and attention efforts from the users which helps them feel more identified and connected to it.
Calling for attention
Satisfied + happy + healthy
People who can't keep pets
Someone in need of a friend
Pontus is for everyone, especially those who find it difficult to take care of their plants. Enhancing the feedback from plants in a way that remains natural and simple to comprehend, makes owning one easier and frustration free.
It was a big challenge to work with sound because since it is so intangible, it requires a special kind of thinking to imagine what could be done; so we used a soundboards as the language to help us express and construct our ideas.
Of course, the next obstacle was to understand how to process sound and how to make it do what you want it to do. However, prototyping and recording our own sounds was not only, a lot of fun, but also a quicker way to achieve what we envisioned.
For a while during our process we tried to create sounds that sounded "like nothing else" because plants have never made a sound, so we were chasing what could be the barking of plants. Only to discover that there is no such thing, every single sound that we hear we will mentally associate with something we have heard before; although, if the sound is credible enough, we might assign it to a new source and now think, "oh! that sounds like a plant!" when we hear something else.
In our group work we all took an active role in each of the stages, a lot of the work was done sitting together but my main responsibility was the creation of the sounds. For this reason I was always pushing towards testing them with other people and seeing what they interpreted, especially because after hearing the same modified pitch bubble over and over again, my perception of it was completely distorted and I didn't know what it meant anymore.
It was very exciting to work with Product Design and to translate all this work into something physical that interacts with people without a screen or buttons. It made me see the value of engaging other senses during interactions and how this can create a completely different experience.
A couple of months after finishing this project, I was watering my plants and I probably watered it too much (yes, I need a Pontus myself), but something very exciting happened: the plant suddenly made the tiniest movement upwards as if signaling "I'm satisfied" and I realized, if I were to add a next development stage to Pontus, it would be exploring movement to also aid the expression!