If Plants Could Talk, What Would They Say?


Microsoft and Helen Steiner explore new possibilities that can shape the world.



Project Florence

By: Dalton Oium


Project Florence by Helene Steiner was originally exhibited in December 2015 as part of Microsoft’s ‘Artist in Residence’ series.


Combining biology, natural language research, design, and engineering, this project enabled, and examined, how plants might respond if people and plants were to converse.


“In project Florence we take advantage of the sensibility of plants to different light frequencies and use it to trigger a plant response through manipulation and compare the similarities between plants and natural language processes.” 


By translating a user’s sentimental text into a light frequency, the plants were able to recognize and respond to the input in a meaningful way.


Within the Florence ecosystem, there are various sensors that measure and define the plant’s ’mood’. These sensors measure soil moisture, air humidity, carbon monoxide, air temperature, and light, which are then collected and mapped to common human reactions.


For example, the plant’s responses can be cranky and unpleasant if it is too dry or does not care for a person’s input.


Project Florence is a speculative glimpse into our future where both our natural and digital worlds can be bridged through enhanced communication. Enabling people to ‘talk’ with plants and receive a response opens the mind to a whole new world of concepts and applications where humans and nature can live in synchronicity.


Check out this YouTube video showing Project Florence in use.


Published: July 26th, 2020 | Dalton Oium


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