Tropism Well: A Tall Drink of Water

Arduino Craft & Design
Tropism Well: A Tall Drink of Water

By Laura Cochrane

Read MAKE magazine: Volume 32Instead of cricking your neck to drink from a water fountain, what if the fountain cricked its neck for you? This thought occurred to designers Richard Harvey and Keivor John, after seeing a call to rejuvenate public drinking fountains.

Friends since age 10, Harvey, 27, and John, 28, run Poietic Studio, a London design company. (Poietic: productive, formative. From the Greek poiētēs: maker, poet.) Their combined expertise includes audiology, interaction design, and repairing classic porches.

The pair developed their idea into Tropism Well, an interactive sculpture that senses when someone is near and bows to pour water into a glass. The first prototype employed a linear actuator to bend the neck, but the movement was too robotic. Then they realized the weight of the water could be used to achieve a more natural bowing motion.

The final iteration is almost 10 feet tall, with a base of stacked wooden discs, reminiscent of a spine, and a stainless steel neck with a glass carafe on the end. An Arduino Mega and ultrasonic sensor work to detect the user, triggering water to pump up into the carafe. As the weight at the top increases, the Well gracefully bends its neck, pouring water if the sensor installed on the carafe detects a waiting receptacle.

“We see it like a generous mother goose,” Harvey explains. “It’s using the weight to power the movement rather than a motor; that gives it the feel of something more natural and something you can have empathy with. We think this is why people say ‘thank you’ to it.”

Above is an excerpt from the pages of MAKE Volume 32: Design for Makers

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8 thoughts on “Tropism Well: A Tall Drink of Water

  1. James Patrick says:

    This would be very useful if people carried around their on cups. I feel as though this is a solution to a nonexistent problem.

    1. In_Spired says:

      (but they were probably given a huge grant in the name of ‘art’ from taxes of the few who still work.)

    2. Laura Cochrane says:

      It’s an interactive sculpture; it’s not intended to be a solution to a problem. (They were just inspired when they saw the call to rejuvenate public drinking fountains.)

  2. Bill Bigum says:

    “This would be very useful if people carried around their on cups. I feel as though this is a solution to a nonexistent problem.”

    (but they were probably given a huge grant in the name of ‘art’ from taxes of the few who still work.)”

    The above two comments illustrate a very common attitude that non-artists bring to art. For some reason, there is an expectation that the purpose of the object be both logically determined and that the determination be within their (the non-artist’s) sphere of experience and/or education. When any, or all, of these is not true, then the opinion that the art object has no validity, or very little validity, cannot be escaped and opinions such as the above come into being. It would not surprise me to find out that there are more expections than the two I described above at work here.

    While it is not very arguable that there are not very many pure artists in this world (witness the seeming overwhelming acceptance (in the USA) of the idea that art is not important in the adult work/economic arena as evidenced by the absence of art in the education of our children, the magnitude of which can be seen by the number of schools that have removed art education from their curriculum, be it for budgetary reasons or other reasons), there is a large number of impure artistist :-) that have come out of the not small group of people (who could be described by the previous definition) by either suspending and/or ignoring one or more of the expections described above.

    Fans of the movie series, “Starwars”, are an example of this. To enjoy those movies, one must accept, maybe even embrace the illoogical and/or inability-to-expeience that a) not only is space flight is possible, but it is just about the only way people (loosely defined) get around, b) that the ‘Force’ both exists and has a real power that exists outside of the civilization in which it seems to have been ‘born’ or discovered, c) that there exists a seeming huge variety of not-found-on-the-earth beings that exibit a lot of human characteristics (note how much they like to hang out in a bar-like environment), or d) that the science of robotics is so advanced that they have actual thinking, self-awarteness, and problem-solving capabilities. Indeed, one’s reality must be ignored or suspended to some degree to enjoy any movie. or for that matter, ANY art.

    So, if you must criticize the art, criticize the ART, not mundane things like purpose, or any other singular reason that is not part of the art (now, there’s a Catch-22 for you – ha?)

    My reaction to the sculpture was some combination of a) that it presents the idea that the source of water is a bottle (shades of the “I Dream of Geni” TV show) in a way that is very acceptable, b) that the definition of the bottle comes not only from it’s shape, but also from the absence of it’s shape, c) that the bottle (usually associated with some sort of fragility) was created from wood and steel – not exactly fragile, d) that where sculpture usually is associated with some sort of static, ‘just being there’, this sculpture is functional AND that function is both life0afirming and life-supporting, e) that where sculpture is usually associated with another sort of static, ‘imobility’, this sculpture moves! And not only does it move, but it’s function is greatly enhanced by it’s movement. In addition, by using motion detectors, the totality of the function and movement and the sensors is one of seeming intelligence. Wow! Shades of Starwars!!, e) envy (I wish I could have created it, or even thought of it !), and last, but not least, f) that the creators are sharing the secrets of their creation with us, these non-artists, who have a tough time reacting in any other way than standing there, staring, drooling, with our tongues hanging out (but not from thirst – ha).

    Good job, guys!!

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