With the accelerated deterimental effects that human activities are having on the ecosystem of this planet, we imagine a world that can no longer nurtures trees, one of adaptation, where new technologies have afforded alternative means of oxygen and the ability to extract personal histories from natural objects. The installation developed in this project serves as a living monument to the memory of trees. Stimulated by touch, the tree trunk tells us the history of how the planet transformed over different eras, which has been stored in its "growth rings" as the tree aged.
Interaction Design | Academic Project

3 weeks

Alex Frankel, Amsha Kalra, Azucena Romá, and Me

My Role
Conceptualizing idea, Product design, Wood & metal work, Coding

Design Concept

Epitaph is an exploratory interactive installation on how we can extract the rich information that a tree will experience in its lifetime. We imagine a world where humans have found alternative means of oxygen — where trees are no longer required and can extract information from plant life.

Our goal was to bring attention to the importance of trees in people’s lives. We set out to do this by creating a magical experience of interacting with an organic object. We wanted to create a sense that you are communicating with the tree itself so it was important to hide the technology as much as possible. Epitaph shares its story by releasing sounds from its four rings. A tree’s rings are a direct communication with people to show how long it has been alive and what it has heard. In our installation, users unlock these soundscapes by placing a finger on the individual rings. When a ring is activated, it plays its corresponding soundscape. The oldest rings, those that are closest to the center, play the most natural sounds. As the user works outwards, the sounds become more industrial as they approach the death of the tree.

Some of the challenges we faced included dealing with the warping of an uncured cross-section of wood, cutting precise pieces of steel to make natural looking rings and coding the interaction so that it felt natural, approachable and delightful. Our team felt successful in our goals. When we displayed it as part of our final presentation, classmates found the piece inherently beautiful before the first interaction. It did an excellent job of drawing people in and they enjoyed playing with the rings. The sounds were satisfying and delivered the message we were looking for.

User Experience

Stimulated by touch, LEDs gradually fill each individual ring, and cue a distinct soundtrack representative of one of four life stages.

Video showing user experience.

Metal rings are stimulated by touch, and provide feedback in terms of light and sound.

Behind the curtain.