Symbiosis Synthesia

Design Challenge

In recent years, there has been a growing fascination with the world of plants and how we can interact with them. However, the current interaction methods are limited, and people need help communicating with plants deeply. How Might We define a new way to interact with plants and get to know plants better?

Design Solution

Symbiosis Synesthesia is a journey of finding a new way to interact with plants through the visualization of internal signals from both beings and combining the visualization outcome, by which we can better understand and appreciate their importance and develop more sustainable and harmonious relationships with nature.


Arduino, GSR, Plant Conductivity Sensor, MIDI Controller TouchMe, Online Synth, p5.js

My Role

Research, Brainstorm, Interaction Design, Front-End Develop


Lingyu Li, Zhuohan Zhou


2 weeks

Explore The Way Relationships Between Human And Nature

In recent years, there has been a growing fascination with the world of plants and the ways in which we can interact with them. From observing their intricate structures to savoring their flavors, from maintaining their health and beauty to basking in their delicate fragrances, people discover the many joys and benefits of cultivating a relationship with the natural world. The love affair between humans and plants is blooming anew, with more and more people discovering the numerous wonders of the botanical realm?  And what will a new relationship look like between human and plants?

Design Prototype - Plant And Human Are Two Equal Beings

Imagine a world where plants and humans are viewed as equal beings, both possessing a unique inner world that can be communicated through signals that are detectable by different sensors. The levels of galvanic skin response (GSR) in humans are known to fluctuate depending on their emotional state, while the electrical conductivity of plants varies with the moisture levels inside their bodies. Our project involves translating these signals into a synthesized audio clip, then used to create visually stunning patterns from both human and plant sources.

Plant Signal Capturing Using Sonification Device

Plants usually communicate silently with an electrochemical signal. We are trying to reveal this invisible information plants provide to start communication. We utilized a product called Plantwave to receive and generate the signal with sound. This sensor can detect slight electrical variations in a plant. The circuitry used is the same as that used in a polygraph machine. It’s what’s called a psychogalvanometer and was originally developed to measure galvanic skin response (GSR) in humans, which we will also use to collect human signals later.

PlantWave detects slight electrical variations in a plant via two electrodes placed on the leaves.
These variations are graphed as a wave, which is translated into pitch messages that play musical instruments.
Other characteristics of the wave change the textural qualities of those sounds.
The result is a continuous stream of pleasing music that gives you a sonic window into the secret life of plants.

Visualizing Plant Sound Using p5.js

Then we are trying to translate the sound signal into graphics. We developed and compiled the code in p5.js to visualize the soundwave. For each frame of the sound, we projected the spectrum of sound into a gradient color continuously. Hence, as the sound progresses, this ring demonstrates the allocation of the sound of different frequencies.

The Different 'Moods' From Plants

This is how we start to sense the signal emitted from the parts of the plant under different conditions. For the first one, we attached the pads to the healthy, hydrated leaves. Our result shows a smoother transition between frames, as seen on the correspondent ring.

In the second one, we attached the pads onto the leaves that were not in good condition, and we started to see the different visualized signals translated from a different pattern of electrochemical signals from the plant where we see a lack of signal at a certain frequency.

Hydrated Plant Sensing
& Visualization Outcome
Dehydrated Plant Sensing
& Visualization Outcome

Human Signal Capturing Using GSR Sensor

We assembled a GSR sensor based on Arduino to detect human body electrical signals. We observed data fluctuations after six hours of frequent interaction between humans and plants to monitor signal changes over time.

May 4th, 2023
Harvard GSD, Piper Auditorium

Our installation attracted a lot of attention. People were having fun playing with it and also curious about how it worked.


Physical computing and tangible interface are crucial environmental design toolkits to reveal the unseen nature. Learning and exploring nature through making stuff helps to establish a humble mind toward mother nature.

We should always consider the technological feasibility and limitation within the design context but still think differently and address problems with interdisciplinary knowledge. The interaction design can always be multi-dimensional.

Future Direction

- This type of interaction can be further developed into the product for meditation.
- There is a potential opportunity to expand this interaction system and make an affective environment.
- This design can become a public installation for enhancing human-nature interaction or more educational purposes.