Wood Wide Web - "connect / listen"

background

Hidden under our feet is an information highway that allows plants to communicate and help each other out. It’s made of fungi and it is called the Mycorrhizal network. Several studies have demonstrated that mycorrhizal networks can transport carbon, phosphorus, nitrogen, water, defense compounds, and allelochemicals from plant to plant.

Trees linking to the fungal network can help out their neighbours by sharing nutrients and information, warn about enemies such as insect attack – or sabotage unwelcome plants by spreading toxic chemicals through the network.

As a huge living communication network, scientist are now starting to explore it in the context of consciousness and intelligence.

the "connect / listen" project

The overall goal of this project is to develop new technology enabling humans to increase their contact with nature by physically connecting people with trees and plants via the Mycorrhizal network or by sensors located directly on the tree/plants

  • Health benefits
  • Society benefits
  • Environmental protection

participants:

  • Mats Høvin (contact person), Associate Professor, reseach group of Robotics and Intelligent Systems (ROBIN), University of Oslo
  • Jo Herstad, Associate Professor, research Group of Design of Information Systems (DESIGN), University of Oslo
  • Lars Erik Realfsen, Research Assistant / Master Student, Department of Informatics, University of Oslo.
  • Bjørnar Prytz, Master Student - Adaptive LED, Department of Informatics, University of Oslo
                

Sensor systems

                

Data interfacing

                

Actuators

                

plant side sensing

  • "Bubble burst" sound caused by nutrition flowing up the trunk (photosynthesis), "tree drinking" - contact microphone / electronic stethoscope
  • Variations in electric conductivity in different areas of the plant
  • Sensing electrical action potentials
  • Mycorrhizal sensors
  • Trunk swaying in the wind - accelerometer, multiple branches
  • Photosynthesis excess material - Plant-E
  • Soil moist level
  • Machine olfaction
  • Leaf rattle sound - caused by wind. In some trees leafs are very sensitive to small fluctuations in the surrounding air.
  • Remote sensing over large areas: it is possible to discriminate subtle changes in chlorophyll a and chlorophyll b concentrations in plants by measuring the spectrum of the reflected sun light
  • . . .

human side actuators

  • Headphones / speakers - sound
  • Electrical muscle stimulation arrays - abdominal belts NMES,
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
  • Electrical skin stimulation arrays
  • Skin vibrator arrays based on miniature DC motors
  • Other types of neurostimulation
  • Visual - screen / 3D goggles
  • Other neuroprosthetics systems
  • Scentography
  • . . .

nature ➜ human communication

Example:

  • Plant sensors
    • Tree "drinking" detected by contact microphones sensing the "bubble burst" effect (photosynthesis/vacuum)
    • Trunk swaying choir, wind - accelerometer, multiple branches
    • . . .
  • Data interfacing
    • Frequency shifting/scaling/modulation
    • Self-organizing map may be used to automatically match the sensor/actuator dynamic range and to transfer data between different dimensions in such a way that the human gets an interesting experience
    • . . .
  • Human actuators
    • Sound, headphones mounted on the tree trunk
    • Muscle stimulator array on belly
    • . . .

nature ⇄ human communication

Example:

  • Can the increase in photosynthesis when breathing / talking to a plant (bubble burst frequency, CO2) be detected and amplified so that it can be experienced by the human via sound, muscle stimulation, etc..?

A challenge with realtime "communications" with plants is that much of the relevant plant sensor data is slow varying compared to what humans find interesting.

One way to handle this challenge can be to collect sensor data from the plant over a longer time interval (moving window) and store it in a database. The human can then communicate with the fresh "memory" of the plant in different ways

Example:

  • Singing with the tree - two way communication with the "memory" of the plant. The human sings to the plant (microphone) - the plant "sings" back (headphone/speaker) where the "song" may both match the human song and also contain memory information of the current state of the plant converted from memory
    • Can the Mycorrhizal network be stimulated in such a way that singing to the plants tells the plants to relax and increase the growth rate?
    • Can the memory time window be extended to the beginning of the growth cycle of a plant starting in the spring - enabling the human to access the history of the growing shape of the plant, weather conditions ... ?
    • Can the memory time window be extended to the whole life time of the tree - hundred/thousand years of history that can be accessed by the song?

master projects

No.1: One-way communication - Lars Erik Realfsen

  • Technology (sensor, actuator), data conditioning, overal goal discussion
  • Defining a human "interesting" experience in therms of statistical properties or in other terms.
  • Microphone(s) for "bubble burst" / accelerometer(s) for trunk swaying / microphone(s) for leaf rattle sound data collection analogue/digital interface/setup.
  • Discussion and selection of actuator types: Electrical muscle stimulation / transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation / electrical skin stimulation / skin vibrator stimulation ...
  • Construction and testing the actuator
  • Data conditioning via self-organizing map and or other techniques
    • Hardware implementation - Arduino DUE, Arduino Intel® Galileo Gen 2, Raspberry Pi, or other suitable platforms
  • Practical testing / simulation
  • User survey?

No.2: Two-way communication - Singing with the tree

  • . . .

No.3: Synaesthesia

  • Synaesthesia (crossovers in the senses) - hearing light, seeing sound, feeling light ... from the plants
  • Sensor / actuator data crossover mapping
  • Visualizing popping sound / wind swaying ... on a projector screen ...
  • . . .

No.4: Big data / data mining

  • Huge number of sensors in nature - sensing/feeling the state of the forest/ecosystem in realtime in your body
  • . . .

No.4: the "electronic mushroom" project

links

other projects