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Us and Them


Augmented reality project

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Us and them

By conceiving of the nature as another organism, which undergoes the same physical space-time with humans, Us And Them is a project that radically transfers a viewer’s position into a tree’s point of view by combining augmented reality with biosensors. Architecture has challenged the previous dominance of nature for a long time now (e.g. the Crystal Palace in 1851 was a memorable construct intended to represent the growing power of man over nature.) This project, by contrast, will augment another reality in which humans can interact with non-human organisms and envision symbiotic relationship.


The project begins with the simple question: “what if trees could talk,” and if so, then what are we going to hear in response? Being a green, void space at the core of the urban site, a public park has taken an important role in city life. It is a place where people can go whenever they want to feel relaxed –– escaping the busy urban network. Numerous studies have shown the positive psychological and physiological impact of parks to human life; in a way, “seeing trees” results in lowering the level of cortisol, the human-stress hormone, as well as blood pressure and heart rate. 


However, studies have overlooked what organisms in nature experience from humans. Current sensor-detecting technology found that plants are also stimulated, or even feel stress, particularly within their interaction with humans. Ethylene is one example of a type of hormone plants release specifically in stressed conditions to signal with their bio-network. This chemical compound is used as a biomarker of plant stress for humans to observe.


In Us And Them, the AR project renders the scene through a vibrant color spectrum that illustrates the different range and levels of Ethylene found at the site. The colorful renderings will be fed by real-time data from biosensors installed around the exhibition site. The simulation, therefore, is of the sentient landscape that senses us when we are interacting with it. Walking through the experience with a hand-held device will offer a different realm of experience for the user to witness. Us and Them creates an ever-changing space generated by a new network topology within the human-nature exchange.

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From an urban ecological point of view, a public park is very much like a green-black hole of the city. The green space may seem to be in a relatively constant state, however, its nature is far more dynamic. It keeps breathing in and out not only oxygen and carbon dioxide, but also indeterminate energy of people who interact with it.
My project presents a micro-scaled model of such power dynamics with trees as the focus. However, the concept can be extended to rethink the context of public parks in cities around the world.
The project’s concern is more about how plants may feel and how they construct their own social networks existing within the frame of a human constructed public park. Hence, the work renders the phenomenology of the public park space in which human-nature exchange and transference of vitality occur.
The digital screen-based device, in this sense, comes to function as more than a window to look through, but an architecture itself that allows for user-time-based and the relational interactions.
By hearing the voice of a space, the project will open new possibilities of the space to be consumed or experienced. Once a dead space defined by its function or convenience, can now be re-motivated by the idea to simulate the different types of, even truer, vitality at the site. I believe this further enables users and viewers to navigate the new flow of the public space. With new proximity with the space, users and viewers can go beyond the conventional anthropocentric measurement.
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