Design Engineering
Showcase 2020


Robert Pearce
Global Innovation Design
Dr Yamen Saraiji
Humanising Technology

As the connected devices around us multiply and become ubiquitous, a new challenge is arising: how do we engage with this explosion of new interfaces? Increasingly, the choke point in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) is the human instead of the machine. The typical way to address this challenge has been to move interfaces into the background by making our devices more passive, predictive, and self-sustaining. However, there is another, complementary path. Instead of just reducing interactions, what if we make them more fun, exciting, and enriching? Mimo, named after the touch-responsive mimosa pudica plant, is a response to the hundreds of mundane and utilitarian interactions that we have with technology every day.

When touched, mimosa pudica plants respond by instantly drooping the affected leaf and folding its leaflets together. Mimo harnesses this natural feedback mechanism by recognizing touches and using them to control internet connected devices. For example, by playing or pausing music, or turning on and off smart lights. This action provides us with an exciting and fascinating way to reengage with everyday interactions and encourages us to rethink the role of technology and nature in the human ecosystem.

 — Mimo
Mimo - an internet connected interface made from a touch-sensitive mimosa pudica plant that can control other smart devices in an exciting and playful new way.


The prototype device is made primarily with PLA parts, smoothed and solvent welded with dichloromethane. The electronics are mounted on two fully custom printed circuit boards (one for the custom grow light, and one to host an embedded controller). The device was ideated and designed iteratively, treating the electronics, firmware, physical hardware, and living plants as independent systems that were explored, tweaked and combined to create a compelling interaction. The device was designed and created in Tokyo with the input and insight of the world-class HCI experts at Keio University.


The device comprises a living mimosa pudica plant connected to custom control electronics that detect when the plant is touched using swept frequency capacitive sensing. The controller samples at 190 different frequencies and constructs a profile of the capacitance of the plant between 60kHz and 250kHz. The controller interprets specific changes to this capacitive profile as a touch, enabling the device to differentiate whether the plant is folding up due to a human touch, or some other stimuli. The custom, height-adjustable grow light comprises four different colours of LED lights mounted on a custom circuit board. The four colours of light are white, blue, red, and far red, which can be controlled by a companion app. White light gives the plant a more natural look, while red, far red, and blue LEDs provide light across key bands in the light spectrum for optimal plant growth.


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