Rethinking the Gardening Experience

SeedMate is a game that uses innovative technologies to teach traditional gardening techniques.

In June 2013, the Mobile Experience Lab assembled an interdisciplinary team of researchers to experiment with creating a platform or tool to support the digital transmission of knowledge about urban gardening in an Italian context. The broader objective was to find ways to strengthen human connections in the digital age. We would use ubiquitous computing to introduce novice or casual users to multiple stages in the gardening process. SeedMate, created in collaboration with Italy’s national broadcasting company RAI, was born. It began with a month-long ethnographic study with urban gardeners in Italy to better understand gardening techniques in the city. SeedMate itself is a puzzle card game and augmented reality app that aims to teach two important aspects of gardening in a fun, intuitive way: companion planting and sunlight requirements. Players use a plot of soil as a game board and lay biodegradable seed cards down in configurations based on these two aspects. The smartphone app allows players to check whether two plant cards are companions (“seedmates”); for instance, pointing the phone’s camera at the intersection of a tomato and pepper card reveals their compatibility. If they cast the correct amount of shadow, they can be planted next to each other. Once all card are played, an actual garden with the same configuration can be planted.

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