How might we use technology to make plant care simple and stress free?

Bloom is an interactive vase that gives real time information about the moisture and humidity levels that are ideal for your plant. Once a plant is selected on Bloom's LCD menu panel, the sensors calibrate to the ideal settings of that specific plant. It then lets the user know if the moisture and humidity is too high, too low, or in a safe range through light levels and colors.

 

Painpoints

It is often difficult to keep up with individual plant requirements. It becomes a daunting task to make sure all plants are watered well and are kept in the right environment for them to thrive. 
Why can't the plant just tell us when it needs something? Or if we are taking care of it properly? 
This is where the idea of Bloom stems from. Bloom is an interactive flower pot that lets the user know at a glance what the plant needs.

Developing an initial concept

Bloom started as a concept for an ambient device that would provide 'glanceable' information to the user. It was conceptualized as a standalone device that could be used for any potted plant as well as outdoor flower beds.

After being introduced to the Arduino Uno in a Physical Computing class, I realized that this was the perfect opportunity to develop Bloom! Team mate David Mahmarian and I began working on expanding the idea of plant care further and researching similar products online.

 

Testing different designs

Working with a spherical shape required materials that could not be acquired in time. However, we did have acrylic in our hands and wanted to immediately start building so that we could test the product as a prototype. Prototype, fail fast, iterate and improve was the mentality we had. Having gone through several iterations of Bloom's design, we decided on one that merged Bloom into the flower pot itself.

Detail 4

The following is placeholder text known as “lorem ipsum,” which is scrambled Latin used by designers to mimic real copy. Class aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Fusce at massa nec sapien auctor gravida in in tellus. In sit amet felis malesuada, feugiat purus eget, varius mi. Class aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Quisque congue porttitor ullamcorper.

 

making and prototyping

With the knowledge of Arduino Uno in hand, we began building the first prototype with moisture, humidity and infrared sensors. The first prototype of Bloom helped us develop skills and understand how to use sensors with the Arduino Uno. When gestured at, Bloom's two panels would light up to show how much moisture is in the soil and how much humidity is in the air.

Through our user research and critique we learned that there were two major changes that we needed to make for Bloom to be useful: 

  • The light levels need to be specific to the plant that is in Bloom
  • The user needs to understand if there is a call to action (when the soil is over or under watered and when the air is too humid or less humid for the specific plant)
User testing: a critique session on Bloom gave us valuable feedback on the next steps: Bloom needed to be personalized to the plant and also needed a call to action

User testing: a critique session on Bloom gave us valuable feedback on the next steps: Bloom needed to be personalized to the plant and also needed a call to action

 

Making Bloom more Usable and Useful

Improving the usability: To make Bloom specific to a plant and to add an interactive interface, we decided to add an LCD menu for users to select their plant name. We researched the ideal moisture and humidity levels for 3 specific plants and created a small database with this information.

 

To communicate a call to action, we developed a simple light indicator sustem for the moisture and humidity panel. It was important to make the light levels indicate three states: too high, too low, and safe. Since the two extremes needed a call to action, we decided that these should be red. Wehn the moisture level is safe, the light indicators are blue. When the humidity level is safe, the light indicators are yellow.

Improving interaction and communication: A light indicator system was used for call to action. Red lights indicated that the moisture/humidity are too high or too low.

Improving interaction and communication: A light indicator system was used for call to action. Red lights indicated that the moisture/humidity are too high or too low.

The second working prototype of Bloom with an LCD panel and a light indicator system

The second working prototype of Bloom with an LCD panel and a light indicator system

Team mate David Mahmarian and I present the second prototype of Bloom

Team mate David Mahmarian and I present the second prototype of Bloom

What I Learned

 

  • Concept sketching
  • Drawing storyboards to demonstrate user journey
  • Quick prototyping for quick user testing and quick iterations (fail fast and iterate)
  • User testing an interactive device for feedback
  • Working with Arduino Uno, sensor readings, LCD screens and Adafruit's Neopixels
  • Programming in C
  • Product Design (material capabilities)