The Symposium and Hackathon in Social Media and Interaction took place between 23rd-24th March, 2015 at Emmanuel College, Cambridge University. The purpose of the event was to promote the concept of sustainability in the field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). The event featured mentoring and keynotes from a number of distinguished, world-leading researchers.

The focal point of the event was a hackathon, where a number of teams competed to win the prize for best hack — offering the opportunity to fly to IIT Bombay, India, where the team could present their work to researchers there.

Four teams attended the event, all from different universities across the United Kingdom. To apply to take part in the event, each team submitted a 4-page proposal on their perspective on sustainability. Each team was also asked to give an example of the kind of intervention that they would be interested in developing at the hackathon.

To steer the teams towards a common, but novel and emerging field of work, we chose to focus on the theme of interaction with plants. At the hackathon, teams were provided with a range of plants and sensor kits, enabling them to prototype a large range of interactions.

The following sections detail the prizes, along with a description of each team’s prototype.

Best Hack Winners – Queen Mary University London

Queen Mary were awarded the winning prize because they had most complete physical prototype of all the teams, and they showed great movement from their initial idea to the final prototype. The prototype allowed for a good level of engagement, and the judges commented that there was a great sense of social ownership attached to these interaction.

A networked communal watering system and sound art installation.

“Planticipation” is a networked communal watering system and sound art installation designed to be situated throughout a London residential tower block, with a lobby or foyer area which we would convert into a communal indoor garden. The system aims to promote social connections via plant life, as well as to create a space for shared responsibility and action, while improving the built living environment.

Each plant in the communal garden is paired with a plant that lives in one of the residents homes. When a resident waters their plant it triggers a water pump by a paired plant in the communal garden to turn on and water it. Likewise, if someone is on holiday, or shares plants with people in the block, watering a plant in the communal garden will water it’s paired plant in it’s resident’s home. Taking care of one’s own apartment plants would be reflected aurally as well as physically in the shared space by triggering a sound linked to that specific plant. The individual nature, qualities and characteristics of different plants would not only be reflected in their aural identity. When more than one resident waters their plant the garden becomes a beautiful soundscape. The plants also communicate with residents by tweeting stories and information about their life and needs, in order to help support and entertain inexperienced as well as experienced gardeners.

We designed the system to be as sustainable as possible by making the water pump out of recycled materials and providing the residents with an instruction manual for building the system themselves. This way they can make as many water pumps and water sensors as they have plants and residents, and can even skills share with other communities beyond their own block.

With more people living in cities than ever before, access to gardens and green spaces is becoming scarce, and privileges for the elite, but evidence of the importance of nature for our health and wellbeing is well established. This project is aimed at improving the quality of urban experience for everybody by introducing an integrated and interactive experience with a green environment. Furthermore, this system aims to create an opportunity for a community to develop through a shared interest and joint venture. We aimed to develop a system that is as sustainable as possible by using materials and the residential building that already exist, and providing the tools for communities to expand beyond the initial installation.

The Watering System: Plant pots in each location are fitted with a capacitive sensor, that measures how moist the soil is in the pots, and a water pump positioned over the soil. We used an Arduino to read the value of the capacitive sensor in one plant pot, that in turn triggered a motor that powered the water pump on the paired plant.

The Sound System: This used a MakeyMakey wired up to each plant, which was triggered by the watering of the plants. When the plants in the communal space were watered a corresponding sound file would be triggered.

The Tweets: The tweets were triggered by a light sensor or the soil moisture levels. The light sensor was used to trigger bedtime story tweets aimed at kids, and the soil sensor was used to trigger messages from the plants that needed some attention from residents, by requesting water.

Lovely Prize – Swansea University

Swansea received this prize because they had the best story, and the best story telling. And the shaking tree.

Family Tree
The aim of this prototype was to aid the sustainment of life-long relationships through a shared passion. We wanted to use a shared interest in gardening as a medium to communicate between generations by creating transient interactions and displays that could link people together. We aimed to communicate the ‘now’ – telling both parties that they are both in a shared moment in time and interest, but also encourage further conversation and perhaps to bring these people closer together.

Scenario(s) of Use – Grandparents and Grandchildren
In our scenario there are two sets of characters: the grandparents, and the grandchildren. The grandparents want to share their knowledge and interest about gardening to their grandchildren, and the grandchildren want to gain insight and to play with their grandparents. Each household contains a plant, the grandchildren overtime show more interest in the plant as new growths form and flowers appear. These interactions, touching and talking around the plant, are recognized and shared with the grandparents. The motors embedded within the grandparents plant gently moves the plant in the wind and the plant is also rotated away from the sun and towards the grandparents, to show the grandchildren’s interactions with the plant. The grandchildren can see that the interactions are being shared with the grandparents plant through LED indicators. When they next meet, the plant provides a talking point in which grandparents can share their knowledge about how to take care of the plant, and their experiences.

Technical Description
Plant A detected when a person was nearby by utilising a proximity distance sensor. This was done when a user was within a set threshold/distance, and movement was detected on the plant (via accelerometers and gyroscopes). When the user was within the set distance a tune would play and LEDs would light up to either encourage play with the plant, or to alert the user that a recording was taking place.

A recording (streaming of measurements from the gyroscope and accelerometer) of the interaction was recorded between Plant A and the user. This interaction was then saved to an online database.

Meanwhile, Plant B, was continually querying the database server to see if any movement had been recognised by Plant A. If a new interaction had been detected by Plant A, Plant B would then move to allow the user’s as plant B’s location that someone at Plant A’s location was thinking about them. This movement was made possible by attaching the plants to pieces of wire, which acted as levers, which were driven by servos.

Due to the arduinos not being able to directly connect to the internet, two python scripts were used on laptops to communicate between the arduino and computer. One script listened for input from Arduino and the other script wrote data to Arduino, both used serial communication.

Hardware Used
2 x Macbooks
2 x Arduino Unos
Proximity Sensor
Piezo Buzzer

Brave Prize – University of Southampton/Nottingham

Southampton/Nottingham were awarded this prize because they had the best supporting actor and role-playing inside their presentation. They also had the best outline of a sharing economy.

Really Good Prize – University of Aberdeen

Aberdeen were awarded this prize because they had the best designed prototype and staging of their project. The judges commented that the social benefit was also clearly visible.