• Kylie Blair

Plants vs. Kylie

Plants vs Kylie is a program to remind Kylie when her plants are thirsty! Combining Arduino, p5.js, Adafruit IO and IFTTT, Kylie’s plants remind her when they need water through an animated avatar on the web, as well as a notification on her phone. Using moisture soil sensors, Kylie can evaluate if her plants are happy (less than 40 % dry) or thirsty (40% dry or more). Through the anthropomorphization of plants, perhaps Kylie will feel greater kinship to the health and happiness of her fellow organisms.


Plants are an important piece of our ecosystem. While many people treat plants as inanimate objects, it is important to note that plants are complicated, living organisms that can sense, communicate, and possess memory.

Yet, as we move into increased urbanization, nature is not as accessible to us as it once was. We are slowly moving away from the natural and towards the mechanically produced. This project is an attempt to connect the two, to create a relationship between plants and technology. Plants have numerous healing affects. They are known for improving concentration and productivity, as well as reducing stress. In fact, some plants are known for actually purifying the air, according to studies by NASA. Caring for a living thing such as a plant gives us a sense of purpose — especially when you see it happily thriving. Unfortunately, many people are “plant killers” (the number of online articles titled something along the lines of “How to Not Kill Your Plants” or “Houseplants that are Impossible to Kill” must be in the hundreds). This project hopes to remediate this common issue through data visualization and communication that anthropomorphizes our houseplants.

The notion of plants combined with technology is not new: some artists have transformed plants into musical instruments, while others have opened up communication for plants to tweet or call you when they need some TLC. They can be used for scientific developments (such as these plant lamps that convert bacteria within dirt and vegetation into electricity) or they can be used as installation pieces (such as Botanicus Interacticus) and artwork (Floral Automaton grows flowers digitally). Some artists have gone fully digital, such as Sasha Katz, who uses computer graphics to depict an ever-growing relationship between the natural world and technology.

While the combination of nature and technology might at first seem arbitrary, placing these pieces together can prove to be not only aesthetically pleasing, but also an important development as we become swallowed by technology and shift into “metropolitan dwellers” (Bryant). It is important that we don’t fall away from our connection to the natural world. In our often commodified, urbanized lifestyles, perhaps the relationship of plants and technology can reconnect us to our roots and environment. Perhaps pieces such as those listed above will invite humans to take a step closer in experiencing the consciousness of another organism.


Reference for soil moisture sensors: I used Creatron’s demo code to understand how to properly use soil moisture sensors. My sensors came directly from Creatron (they were not the popular SparkFun version I found online) so my safest bet was to follow the code provided from Creatron. The code immediately worked in Arduino, which allowed my coding process to run smoothly.

Reference for sending data between Arduino and P5.js: In order to send my data from Arduino to P5.js, I used the serial-input to p5.js code on the website we used in class on the first day. I edited the code that displayed a graph to instead play one of three animations that would appear based on the data.

Reference for Adafruit and IFTTT: In order for me to send my plant moisture data to Adafruit IO, I followed Nick’s class examples and combined both versions of the IFTTT connect codes. I used version 1 to understand how to send data to Adafruit. I used version two to implement a polling rate within my draw function, so that Adafruit would automatically receive data in specific time intervals, rather than relying on the user to click the screen or interact with the page to send data.


Bryant, Taylor. “Why Are Millennials Obsessed with House Plants?” Nylon, 21 Mar. 2017, nylon.com/articles/millennial-house-plants-obsession. Accessed 9 Nov. 2017.

Faludi, Robert, et al., editors. Botanicalls. 2006, www.botanicalls.com/. Accessed 9 Nov. 2017.

Cook, Gareth. “Do Plants Think?” Scientific American, 5 June 2012, www.scientificamerican.com/article/do-plants-think-daniel-chamovitz/. Accessed 9 Nov. 2017.

Igoe, Tom. “Lab: Serial Input to P5.js.” ITP Physical Computing, 11 Oct. 2017, itp.nyu.edu/physcomp/labs/labs-serial-communication/lab-serial-input-to-the-p5-js-ide/. Accessed 9 Nov. 2017.

Jobson, Christopher. “Animator Sasha Katz Explores a Symbiotic Relationship between Plants and Technology.” Colossal, 25 May 2017, www.thisiscolossal.com/2017/05/animator-sasha-katz-explores-a-symbiotic-relationship-between-plants-and-technology/. Accessed

9 Nov. 2017.

“Moisture Soil Sensor.” Creatron Inc., www.creatroninc.com/product/moisture-soil-sensor/

   ?search_query=soil+moisture+sensor&results=4. Accessed 9 Nov. 2017.

Puckett, Nick. “Data and APIs.” Github, 3 Nov. 2017, github.com/DigitalFuturesOCADU/

   creationANDcomputation/tree/master/P5examples/DataANDapis. Accessed 9 Nov. 2017.

Rodriguez, Natalia. “Hacking House Plants to Make Music When They’re Touched.” Fast Company, 18 Feb. 2014, www.fastcompany.com/3026612/hacking-house-plants-to-make-music-when-theyre-touched. Accessed 9 Nov. 2017.

Vezina, Kenrick. ““Plant Lamps” Turn Dirt and Vegetation into a Power Source.” MIT Technology Review, 23 Nov. 2015, www.technologyreview.com/s/543781/ plant-lamps-turn-dirt-and-vegetation-into-a-power-source/. Accessed 9 Nov. 2017.

Visnjic, Filip. “Floral Automaton – Digital Growth with Physical Adaptation.” Creative Applications, 21 July 2017, www.creativeapplications.net/arduino-2/ floral-automaton-digital-growth-with-physical-adaptation/. Accessed 9 Nov. 2017.

Wolverton, B.C., et al. Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement. NASA, 15 Sept.1989, https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19930073077.pdf. Accessed 9 Nov. 2017.