Imaginary Garden, 2016
Polygons of "Sirius" Educational Centre, Sochi
A user can “grow” a fantastic and real plant by means of a neuroheadset. The view of real plants in the “Imaginary garden” is a result of “collective” imagination and emotions which are impossible to predict.

Scientific consultant – Vera Bashmakova;

Engineer – Boris Bazulev;

Programmer – Denis Bazulev.

The aim of the project is to explore the complex relationship between real and virtual, natural and artificial. "Imaginary Garden" is an interactive installation that creates a real plant according to a virtual model. Each participant can grow

a virtual plant on a screen by means of a neural interface. The virtual plant can have signs of two plants (cucumber or tomato) in any combination. The view and the growth of a virtual seedling depend on the data which are input from

a neuroheadset. Created on a screen imaginary plant is a prototype for cultivating a real plant by an electronic system.

A digital seedling of each participant has a different size and number of leaves, fetuses, nodes, the length of the internodes, the intensity, and the direction of the growth of a stem. The above-mentioned qualities of a  real plant can be changed by means of phytohormones. There are four phytohormones accessible to the electronic system: auxins, gibberellins, cytokinins, and abscisic acid. Each of them has its own aim: to accelerate the growth of shoots, to stimulate the flowering or ripening of fetuses, to promote the loss of leaves. If a virtual sample has qualities that are impossible

to provide for a real plant even by dint of hormones so the electronic system destroys the real one adding a lethal dose

of abscisic acid. Therefore according to the conditions of our experiment the being and the variability of the living are completely dependent on a virtual sample.

The form of interaction  

The installation consists of two computers with neural interfaces, electronic watering and an injection system, twenty-live seedlings, and several containers for hormone solutions and water. Live plants are divided into two rows. The first row is under the influence of hormones, the second one is for control and watered without hormones. Participants of the experiment sit before monitors, put on neuroheadsets, and try to grow “imaginary” plants on their screens. Only two users can work simultaneously with an installation and every person grows his/her own plant. As soon as a digital seedling begins to take shape, the program gives a signal to the electronic system how a plant should look like, and the system re-creates it from a real one. For instance, if a virtual tomato has a fetus, then a real tomato is watered by auxins. All data on watering all plants are fixed on the screen. The most effective doses of hormones and their maximum number had been clarified during the research before the beginning of making an installation. That information was taken into account to design the necessary algorithm. In a rare case, when the signal, flowing from a neuroheadset, is too strong and a digital plant has, for example, a large number of fetuses or leaves impossible to re-create in real conditions, the system kills a real seedling with abscisic acid. Special conditions for watering with acid provoke the situation when participants wait for and want an acid injection in a plant. 

The system of watering with hormones is working only while a virtual plant is growing. As soon as a participant takes off a neuroheadset his/her virtual plant is over, and the injection system stops, it means that the installation is ready for a new participator. When working the data of all virtual samples are summarized and saved. Therefore the garden is a result of a collective “imagination” of all participants.  The effect of “phytohormonal therapy” is getting evidence after three days of installation work, provided that all live seedlings putting in the installation were not older than three or four days.