Interactive Plant Growing

by Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau

This example of virtual life is the artificial life simulation of the growing of plants.


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"Interactive Plant Growing (1993-97) is an installation, which deals with the principle of the growth of virtual plant organisms and their change and modification in real time in the 3-dimensional virtual space of a 4D Graphics Computer (Silicon Graphics). These modifications of predefined "artificially living plant organisms" are mainly based on the principle of development and evolution in time. The artificial growing of program - based plants is an expression of the desire to discover the principle of life, which is always defined by the transformations and morphogenesis of certain organisms.

Interactive Plant Growing connects the real time growing of virtual plants in the 3 - dimensional space of the computer to real living plants, which can be touched or approached by human viewers.

  • Touch a real plant or move hands towards it and this controls the real time virtual growth of 25+ virtual plants
    • Each of the 25 virtual plants has 5+ variants
  • Virtual plants displayed on a video screen
  • Viewers become a part of the artwork as they choose how to interact with the plants and therefore what growth is projected on to the screen
  • Virtual plant types: ferns, mosses, trees, vines and a cleaning plant ("killer plant").
  • Touch and distance of/from the real plant control the size, rotation, appearance, color and position for the virtual plant by the generation of different data values
  • Algorithms based on morphological characteristics of real plant differentiation
  • Virtual growing is based on "the appearance of movement and differentiation "
    • Uses special randomising parameters for size, length, rotation, translation, angle and colour as "artificial growth and differentiation regulators" to determine the morphology of virtual plants.
  • "The electrical potential difference between human and plant gets measured through the living plants."
  • "This voltage difference varies depending on the hand - plant distance, the sensitivity of the plant ranges from 0 to about 70 cm in space, depending on the size and morphology of the real plant."[8]
  • "Each data value coming from each plant is interpreted in synchronisation and in real time by means of the growing program during the drawing of the virtual plants."
  • "All data values (derived from the interaction viewer - plant) are now interpreted as variables in the growing program. Each value is responsible for specific growing events; changing rotation, scaling, translation, location or colour."
  • "In the dark 12 x 6 meter installation space, five different real plants are placed on 5 wooden columns in front of a high resolution 4 x 3 meter video projection screen. All plants are connected by an interface to a 4D Silicon Graphics computer, which sends its video signals from the screen to a high resolution RGB video data beamer 80 kHz , 650 Lux. This data beamer sends the growing pictures to the projection screen in real time."

To visit a website containing information on several of Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau's works including this one, click here.

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