Levi's Talk Show

A smart writing tool and an online presence for plants


5 weeks
Fall 2020
IPD509 course project



My Role

Individual project
Software developer
Mechanical engineer
Interaction designer


Define what a writing tool is and create a fun and smart writing tool that evoke certain feelings. The use of electronic sensors is required and the solution cannot be obvious.


Levi's Talk Show. An experience for your beloved plant, you and your plant fans. It is a smart writing tool that auto generates tweets for a plant by measuring various conditions around the plant with sensors.

Design Brief

The final project in the course "Connected Objects for Learning and Playing" had the prompt of "Smart Writing Tool." I was tasked with creating a novel writing tool that leverages connected objects.

This was a solo project during COVID and another layer of the challenge was to use readily available sensors and prototype and test in my apartment since shop access was very limited.

01 Material + mechanism exploration

Right after receiving the prompt, I tried to define what writing tool means by testing materials that make a mark on another material. Since the end product needed to be somewhat physical, I "sketched" using physical objects in 3D and created visual samples.
I conducted three different material and mechanism exploration to help me take inventory of what materials I had access to and what I could possibly do with them.
These experiments helped me come up with design criteria and design constraints which helped me ideate.

01 Conductivity test of drawn materials on paper

The first experiment was to test the resistance of different written marks on paper wet and dry. I tested 25 different marks and used a multimeter to help measure the resistance.
After I tested the conductivity of dry and wet writing utensils I already had, I selected 3 (graphite power slurry, water brush pen and compass with graphite stick) to incorporate into simple circuitries to test out if they have potential to be turned into more complex applications.
Paintable Circuit w/
Graphite powder slurry
Colored Circuit w/
Water soluble colored pencil & brush pen
Compass Dimmer w/
Aluminum compass and graphite stick

02 Hydro-dip

With nail polish, a tub of water and water color paper, I tested the feasibility of doing hydro-dipping at my apartment. I thought that the resulted painting could be manipulated using water's conductive property or by adding sound-waves or mechanical movements to water.

03 Unconventional objects and materials as writing tools

I also experimented with using unconventional objects and combining materials as writing tools.
I'd tried hand tools (hammer, screw drivers and hex keys), vegetables (brusel sprouts, potatoes and dill), colored detergent foam, shaved pigments and knives. Some of the results can be seen below.

02 Concept & constraints

Before I went deeper into any of the mechanisms and applications above, I narrowed down the brief for myself by setting a set of guiding questions and design criteria. I usually find that giving myself constraints gives me more control and helps me find some direction while ideating.

The concept became a smart writing tool that writes useful information to its users and people around it.

Guiding questions

What are writing tools for?
Who gets to write and express ideas and who decided on this?
Who is reading/consuming the written materials? Why?
What are ways written materials are recorded and how has it changed throughout history?

Design criteria

The design needs to:
       be intuitive
       be an enabler for stakeholders
        provide new experiences

The use of technology needs to:
       create new possibilities
       be used to level the playing field

03 First iteration

The first iteration of the design that provides useful information and provides voice was a mood sensing assistant that helps a deaf person navigate a social setting by providing real time mood suggestions.

This smart writing tool, VibeLive, is a device that listens to sounds around it and picks up sounds people make that suggest certain reaction and vibe. It will then display the reaction/vibe using LED pattern and also on a LCD screen. This can help deaf people know more about what's around them and also help anyone monitor a room's mood without having to be physically in the room.

I could also imagine how this could be used in a baby monitor to give adults another layer of information as they monitor babies who might be sleeping in another room.


lcd display


distinct sound (clapping and booing)
sound sensor


orresponding words on LCD screen
color changing LED


The two demo below shows how VibeLive recognizes two types of sounds (clapping and booing) and outputs the correct indications for users.

04 Second iteration

The second iteration of the concept focused on providing information to the message receivers while giving a voice to a voiceless object. Emotional plushie senses when too much force is being exerted on it and expresses its "feelings" through a LED array. I image this can help cultivate empathy in children.

For young children, they might be very rough with their stuffed animals and toys and this can potentially translate to how they treat real living beings around them. We never want to see children hurting family pets or even pulling on adult's hair with excess force. The Emotional Plushie is designed to teach children that even their stuffed animals can be hurt when they hug/pitch/press too hard on the toy.


Arduino UNO
8x8 LED matrix
flexible touch sensor passive buzzer


force on plushie


Buzzer and LED array emoji

Emotional Plushie

In this demo, all the components are external to the plush animal. However, I imagined that all elements would be embedded into the design of the animal to make children feel that the animals do have real feelings and can be hurt.

05 Final Design - Levi's talk show

The final iteration of the concept built on top of the previous 2 iterations. However, the stakeholders have changed. The voice is given to plants and the medium of the writing is on the internet.

Levi's Talk Show was design specifically for my learning cactus, Levi II. I found myself sometimes wonder what my plants would say to me if they can speak. Levi's Talk show a tool that allows plants to talk about how they are doing and their needs. If there's no specific needs, the plant will share other curious information. The talk show gives plants a digital presence on social media (twitter) and allow them to communicate with the world.

There is a need for this design since the internet and social media have become the archives of writings of our day. Humans are already making social media accounts for pets. Plant parents already share plant pictures online but what if plants can be the ones actively sharing?


Temperature module Humidity module
soil moisture sensor
Twitter API


soil moisture index, ambient temperature
ambient humidity


Tweets about the plant's immediate needs when appropriate
randomly generated tweets when plant has no dire need

Stakeholders and personas

The talk show experience involves three groups of stakeholders: the plant, the plant owner and the audience.

The plant

Plant owner

The audience


The initial prototype of the talk show was a proof of concept where all the sensors were directly plugged into Levi's pot and a tweet was manually created.
The final prototype of the talk show is made with 3D printed mic stand and a paper box enclosure.

Design diagram

The schematics of Levi's Talk Show can be seen below. The physical components can be seamlessly added to any potted plant.

Example output

The talk show is supported by a 4 step process: real time data collection, data analysis and storage, tweet generator matrix and twitter feed through a twitter API.

06 IMpact & Learning

This project was a new experience for me because I was given an intentionally vague and confusing prompt to work with while being fully remote. It felt like I was swimming in an ocean of ambiguity at times. It was a project where there was no client but myself and the completeness of it was also self-determined. This project taught me a lot about myself as a creative and how to self motivate.
I also learned how to to constantly push myself but occasionally taking a step back to re-evaluate. I learned how to set constraints for myself while leaving enough flexibility for pivots. Most importantly, I learned how to be resourceful and prototype with unconventional materials.

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