Symbiotic Transmitter

Plant Machine Hybrid, Installation, 2018

Symbiosis [from Greek: sym - together | bios - living] means living together and is usually describing a long-term closeness of two beings.

The Symbiotic Transmitter enacts a speculative communication apparatus, based on a hybrid structure of interacting electronics and plants. The formation pursues the transmission of a signal. This is only possible through cooperation and the well-being of all parts.

Symbiotic Transmitter - Plant Machine Hybrid

Mimosa pudica

Plants regulate their physiological functions by utilizing electric signals. Certain plant species developed quick motoric skills. The Mimosa pudica is known as «sensitive plant», closing its leaves and bowing down branches in rapid movements when it is stimulated - for example by wind, water drops or touch.


The transmission of the signal is started by a soft touch of a branch above the installed infrared proximity sensor. The plant's leaves fold as the branch approximates the sensor. A certain closeness to the sensor will start the pump and the next plant will be contacted and watered. The Mimosa pudica reads the signal, reacts and starts the next transmission.

This process of reading, translating and writing diversely mediated signals will be continued until the last unit will be reached.


The vulnerability of the plants has a direct influence on the whole system. If one plant is behaving unexpectedly, if it stays closed for example, because it lacks light or water, the transmission will not be accomplished. As diurnal beings Mimosa pudica are also determining the activity of the whole system through the day. Disturbing their rest cycle is not recommended.

Result of the procedure is a signal transmission through collaborative interaction. The symbiosis within the machine helps the electronic parts to fulfill their task of transferring the signal - the plants will be provided with water.

Having a living organism existing or being planted into an anthropogenic system, needs the alignment of the system in a non-intrusive way. The action of the function should be the absolute maximum of an outcome expected. Thereby it should require the least amount of work, resources or disturbance from the living actor to have the task fulfilled.


Mechanic parts evolved around the plants in a modular system of adjustable components. They are able to adapt to different shoot system shapes of Mimosa pudica. The machinery is able to transfer a signal in an ever changing technoid landscape.

Adjustability is a needed factor to reduce the stress of the plants. The plant pots can be rotated carefully. It is therefore possible to change the branch that will be watered and subsequently passes on the signal.

Caring for the health of the sensitive plants is an essential part of the process, as is setting up and providing a warmed-up climate and a save environment over night.



Mimosa pudica and infrared proximity sensor Sensor regulator and control Symbiotic Transmitter - Top View Symbiotic Transmitter - Cables Symbiotic Transmitter - Row of units


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Symbiotic Transmitter, interspecies mutual understanding
Summer 2021 - printed Issue #69



Eyecandy: Symbiotic Transmitter


Adafruit Blog

Plant-Machine-Hybrids as a Speculative Communication Apparatus





Thanks to

Conceptual support by Prof. Ralf Baecker

Project developed at the Digital Media Bremen program

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