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Benefits of Human Plant Interfaces

Plant Colour Patterns

The beginning of the introduction mentioned the current ecological problems caused by humans. Some of these issues can be blamed directly on the inappropriate use of technology. The research on Human Plant Interfaces proposes interaction design solutions, which are more eco and human friendly. The exploration of these advantages is separated in the four parts design, urban development, production lifecycle, and social design.

The appearance of plants in our spatial environment is very familiar and common to us. In contrast to this, everyday technologies in form of a car, a fridge, a TV and so on hold artificial attributes that are still perceived as unnatural objects in our ecology. Natural and organic materials from plants are able to cover these unnatural attributes. Furthermore, plants exist in a large variety with different sizes and shapes, which make them interesting for tangible interfaces [Nemitz2000, Bartel2001]. One advantage is that people are very familiar with these physical shapes of plants. They enjoy their visual appearance as well as its haptic characteristics [Shoemaker2002, pages 181 and 258]. For this reason, interfaces designed with plants and its materials can enhance interactions between technology and humans in more natural and emotional scope.

Moreover, plant based interfaces or technology covered with plant material brings nature back to our daily lifestyle again. Especially, urban surroundings with less nature and its habitants with almost no contact to natural environments would benefit on a greater scale of these new interfaces [KlEhBo2011]. Through the contact with these Human Plant Interfaces, the awareness of our ecologic problems will become better understandable and people get more sensitive to these current environmental issues. In that relation, Human Plant Interfaces can have an educational impact on its users. Beyond that educational impact, they hold a further advantage for spatial applications. Plants are able to sense their environments. Their sensory system is much less complicated than our human sensory system. This more simple plant sensory system allows understanding their signals [VolAdJo2007] more easily, which can be useful for environmental sensing applications [VolRufRa2006]. This approach of biosensing looks very promising in particular for ambient and ubiquitous computing applications [ICC2007].

Another current problem of our environmental crisis is our huge consumption of resources and our wasteful treatment with them. At the moment current devices get their resources from the natural environment and then the parts are produced in factories. In other factories the pieces will be put together for creating the product. When the use of a product is over, then very often the waste and recycle question emerges. Most products will not be recycled and end up at the waste disposal site. The product life cycle of current communication technology is not closed and therefore not sustainable for our environment. The approach of Human Plant Interfaces intends to establish a circular closed product lifecycle as complete as possible. Pieces of an interface, which can be implemented with organic material are supposed to be used for these kind of technology. For instance a common indoor plant can be used as computer input device. The different parts of the plant can be used for executing a set of user commands to a computer system. The advantage from a production point of view is obvious. Resources are not as limited as its artificial produced counterparts with plastic. The resources and parts for Human Plant Interfaces can be grown. Advantage of these renewable resources can have a positive influence on our environment. Produced plants for creating Human Plant Interfaces can provide additionally more oxygen for our environment. The diversity in technologic approaches forces also a high diversity range in plants species [BeSch2004]. This characteristic of diversity can affect a greater bio diversity through the support of renewable resources. Greater bio diversity is strongly related with better living conditions for animals within natural setting (food chain). Furthermore, plants can have cleaning [Kastner2012, page 175] and cooling abilities for their environments, which is an important point for the increasing average temperature in urban landscape. In addition to those positive impacts on the environment during the production process of the resource plant, Human Plant Interfaces also hold positive side effects while they are used. Some Human Plant Interfaces do not only offer functionality, they also hold the ability to beautify an environment. The above mentioned example of the indoor plants as a replacement for a mouse or keyboard device fits in this case. This replacement of 100% artificial produced technology facilitates more nature based settings for interior environments and offers more space, which might be previously not available.

The appropriate plant treatment is certainly a special and crucial issue for Human Plant Interfaces. At the first sight, the treatment of the plant looks like a disadvantages for the usage of Human Plant Interfaces, but psychologist attribute to plant treatment and gardening a strong positive impact on human well-being [Flagler1994, pp. 4]. Taking care of a plant can reduce stressful and hectic emotions [Shoemaker2002, pages 53- 62 and 179-186]. Furthermore, plants and its fixed location-based characteristic helps people to identify more easily with a new place. The active intervention to Human Plant Interfaces creates a stronger emotional relationship between the human and an interface than an electronic device can establish. This stronger relationship between a human and the plant based interfaces relies mostly on the living organism attribute that these interfaces hold. However, in the end when the interface breaks, the chain of disposal is much simpler to implement. The natural parts of the Human Plant Interface can be put back in its natural ecologic environment, where it will be automatically recycled by natural processes. The other electronic and construction materials have to be disposed as usual.

The product life cycles problems and benefits of Human Plant Interfaces result also in new applications, which can have a positive impact on our social life. The treatment of a bigger amount of plants or a garden cannot be maintained by one person all the time. People have to communicate with each other and arrange the maintenance of the plants[WiMaMe2010]. Therefore the interactions between people get strengthened and this can have a positive impact on the human mental health and the social identity of a human group. Moreover, Human Plant Interfaces enables a better awareness of the plant lifecycles and activities of blooming and the production of food. These special nature driven events provide humans positive emotions about success and happiness. The life quality can be increased by these natural events and they get less dependent from the ordinary food chain. The next feature plants hold for the society is their slow life cycle. The slowness attribute of plants is a strong counterpart to our current accelerated and fast life style. Plants are not able to react fast on changes, even if the human wants it. If we force a plant too hard to change then it will die or get harmed at least. For this reason, plants and Human Plant Interfaces forces us to decelerate. This is in contrast to our current life style and can have a positive effect in decreasing our fast paced life style in certain circumstances.

The goal of Human Plant Interfaces is to provide functionality similar to its artificial counterparts, but with the motivation to reduce the artificial produced parts as much as possible. The capabilities and the new design approaches of these Human Plant Interfaces will be described in the chapter “3. Plants, Interfaces, and Art” on page 43. The research methods will be explained in the next section.


[Nemitz2000] Nemitz, Barbara (2000). trans plant. Living Vegetation in Contemporary Art. Hatje Cantz, 2000.

[Bartel2001] Bartelsheim, Sabine (2001). Pflanzenkunstwerke: Lebende Pflanzen in der Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts. Schreiber, 2001.

[ICC2007] NTT InterCommunication Center (2007). Silent Dialogue. ICC, 2007.

[WiMaMe2010] Witzgall, Susanne; Matzner, Florian; Meder, Iris (2010). (Re)Designing Nature - Aktuelle Positionen der Naturgestaltung in Kunst und Landschaftsarchitektur. Hatje Cantz, 2010.

[KlEhBo2011] Klanten, R.;Ehmann, S.;Bolhöfer, K. (2011). My Green City: Back to Nature with Attitude and Style. Gestalten, 2011.

[Kastner2012] Kastner, Jeffrey (2012). Nature - Documents of Contemporary Art. MIT Press, 2012.

[Shoemaker2002] Shoemaker, C. A. (2002). Interaction by Design: Bringing People and Plants Together for Health and Well Being. John Wiley & Sons, 2002.

[BeSch2004] Begemann, F. (2004). Produktvielfalt durch Ressourcenvielfalt - Potenziale genetischer Ressourcen - Tagungsband eines Symposiums vom 24.-25. September 2003 im Gustav-Stresemann-Institut in Bonn. Schröder, S. (Ed.). ZADI, 2004.

[VolRufRa2006] Volkov, Alexander G.; Rufus , Don; A. Ranatunga (2006). Plants as Environmental Biosensors. In Plant Signal Behav. 2006 May-Jun; 1(3): 105–115.

[VolAdJo2007] Volkov, Alexander G.; Adesina, Tejumade; Jovanov, Emil (2007). Closing of Venus Flytrap by Electrical Stimulation of Motor Cells. In Plant Signal Behav. 2007 May-Jun; 2(3): 139–145.


  1. August 17th, 2014 at 00:18 | #1

    In the context of this chapter the article “Seven Acupuncture Points for Shifting Capitalism to Create a Regenerative Ecosystem Economy” by Otto Scharmer is worth to read.

    Reference: Schramer, Otto (2010). Seven Acupuncture Points for Shifting Capitalism to Create a Regenerative Ecosystem Economy. In Oxford Leadership Journal. 2010 June; 1(3): 1–21.

    Furthermore, the company Ecovative also deals with approaches to make products more healthier for the nature and people.

  2. December 27th, 2014 at 21:52 | #2

    According to a report by Gartner, the Internet of Things (Web 3.0) will increase significantly in the next years. The downside of the development will cause a vast amount of e-waste.

    The mentioned visualization techniques and biosensing techniques in chapter 3.1 and chapter 3.2 provide an idea how we can use plants instead of electronic parts. It might be an useful approach for reducing a little bit the amount of e-waste.

  3. admin
    January 20th, 2015 at 12:22 | #3

    The aspects of renewable resources and the product lifecycles were also the topics of the new summit “Biofabricate (2014)” on December 4th 2014 at the MICROSOFT Technology Centre in New York. This make magazine published a nice review about this this summit on their website.

  4. May 5th, 2015 at 11:52 | #4

    Another great example that plants can clean soil from environmental damage is the project “The Iron Ring (2013) by Cecilia Jonsson. In an e-book you can read more about how the grass Imperata cylindrica is used for the environment of the Río Tinto mines in Spain.

  5. admin
    September 10th, 2015 at 19:43 | #5

    The benefits of trees in urban landscapes are very well described in the article “Introducing ‘treeconomics’: how street trees can save our cities” (2015) by Patrick Barkham. In relation to Germany/Austria this article (2009) by Lorenz von Ehren Baumschule and this research report (short version) reveals the results in detail.

  6. October 15th, 2015 at 15:33 | #6

    Die Zeitschrift Umweltpsychologie befasst sich mit der Interaktion zwischen Mensch und Natur. Das betrifft auch die menschliche Wahrnehmung sowie andere Interaktionsformen mit Pflanzen. Sicherlich einige interessante Aspekte dabei warum Pflanzen ein attraktives Material sind.

  7. November 4th, 2016 at 19:51 | #7

    The start-up Creapaper GmbH from Germany uses the new developed resource GRASPAP based on gras for 90% of the paper production. A great example of using common plant resources.


  8. admin
    November 4th, 2016 at 20:00 | #8

    The dutch company Plant-e developed a new technique for energy harvesting with the help of living plants. The photosynthesis process produces a bacteria, which can be used for to harvesting electricity. More information on their website… and by the way their DIY box looks pretty interesting for art installations.


  9. November 18th, 2016 at 18:51 | #9

    The famous Nature Magazine will start a new Journal format regarding sustainability, which is definitely an interesting source of research for Human Plant Interfaces:

    Nature Sustainability Journal will bring together all of the research fields contributing to a deep understanding of the ways in which we organize our lives in a finite world and the multiple impacts our actions have. Beyond fundamental research, the journal will publish significant investigations into the policies and solutions that will ensure human well-being now and in the future. Its aim is to facilitate important cross-disciplinary dialogues to respond to the greatest challenges of our time.

  1. July 31st, 2014 at 14:48 | #1