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Minty Zoo: 
An Interspecies Plant-Based Communication System



Plant agency is commonly understood as being reactive to the environment (i.e., phototropism); however, plants can be proactive, even social beings. Botanists have identified that plants can connect and communicate through the natural language (i.e., carbon, water) to nurture and train their kin (i.e., deliver excess nutrients, send warnings when pests attack). As design researchers, we wonder how to use sensing and actuating technology to let plants outside of their natural habitats communicate across species and even with non-organic things. We designed ”Minty Zoo, an interspecies plant-based communication system. In our design, “five hub plants” are located in the cabinet, and an uneven amount of resources (water and light) are distributed among them. By observing plants’ collective behaviors through 15 sensors (monitoring: soil moisture, temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, ammonia, and timelapse of the plants’ growth), the generated data were used in resource re-distribution that helped to nurture the ’seedling’ on the top—ultimately recreating the ”hub plants nurturing kin” scene via artificial means. The artifact is used as a research probe in another submission paper—Plantroids and Plantborgs: Design Speculation for Plants as Social Actors. With the use of the artifact, we brought up an active discussion among designers from reflecting on human-dominated ecosystems to seeing plants as social actors. The artifact presents stages of our design research process and reflections on how we design for plants as social actors, including co-speculation of Plants-Computer Interaction (PCI) design opportunities with six designers. In conclusion, we present new design opportunities for creating an interspecies plant-based communication system through sensing technology, and introduce novel concepts (plant interaction) by using our prototype to bring up active discussions/provocations in the design community.


  • Research through Design

  • Semi-Structured Interview

  • [to be updated]

Results & Contribution: 

  • [to be updated]

Collaborators & Acknowledgement: 

[to be updated]


Fei (Dillon) Shieh, Yu-Ting Cheng, Renee Noortman, and Mathias Funk. 2022. Minty Zoo: An Interspecies Plant-Based Communication System. In Nordic Human-Computer Interaction Conference (NordiCHI '22). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Article 92, 1–2.

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