1. The Transfer: Pods accelerate along a maglev runway, each one destined for a different country. At the same time, a plane swoops down overhead - it locks into an intelligent magnetic system that holds it in place while it picks up the pods, also dropping off pods arriving at this city.

    Horizon - The Future of Transport

     
  2. One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is a project set up in 2005 that essentially aims to give every child in the world access to a laptop, the Internet; and therefore education. To do this they have been trying to manufacture the $100 laptop but as of yet have only managed to get it down to $200. Obviously the benefits of the project could be huge: the Internet is an amazing resource for information and as a student myself I can’t imagine an education without it. But is it really more important than basic living essentials like food, water and shelter (which a lot of OLPC’s ‘target market’ don’t have)? - surely the $200 would be better spent feeding 100 starving kids for a month, for example. Despite this, the project has received huge amounts of support, originally being backed by AMD, eBay and Google, among others, and being shortlisted for the World Design Impact Prize. However when you look a bit deeper there is lots more criticism to be found. 

    One of the most interesting points I found was that, at the current price, people living on $1/day (more than 20% of the worlds population) would have to spend more than half of their annual income on this laptop. Considering that the global average of ICT spending is 3% of annual income, OLPC’s laptop should really cost people in the developing world around $10. On a similar note OLPC costs $200 per child’s education, whereas a new $10,000 school would serve approx 500 children, working out as only $20 per child’s education. 

    So far OLPC is probably the only celebrated sustainable design project I’ve found that I strongly disagree with. While I think the fundamental idea of giving every child education is extremely important, the way the organisation is going about it does not make sense to me. It is an excellent example of remote ‘parachute design’ and how it usually does not work to its imagined potential - western businessmen and designers see a problem and try to apply their own knowledge and experience of the situation to it, as if it was a problem for them, the westerners. In this case the problem was a lack of education and their solution was Internet enabled laptops, even for people who have very limited access to clean water, medicine and electricity.

     
  3. Horizon is the future of transport. It uses the first ever globally standardized transportation system to allow a smooth and seamless interchange between ground and air.

    Travellers enter the system through their local SkyStation - one of many strategically positioned throughout the city. At a predetermined time, a destination specific SkyLink pod arrives. After a short trip through the city to the Airstrip, the SkyLink pod gently accelerates to match the speed of the approaching SkyShip. It is carefully plucked from the track and lifted aboard the SkyShip, which climbs again to cruising altitude. The SkyShip flies from city to city in this fashion, picking up and dropping off SkyLink pods on a never ending flight.

    This concept and video were created by myself and 3 other students (creditted below). We entered it into the GSA Creative Competition run by Mark Andrews, Oscar winning director of Brave, and won!

    Music: Daft Punk “Flynn Lives” from the Tron Legacy Soundtrack

     
     
  4. A couple of weeks ago my team applied to become part of the art school’s Creative Competition run by Mark Andrews, Oscar winning director of Pixar’s Brave. Over the past week we have been involved in a series of intimate ‘expert workshops’ with him and Steven Burch, that all culminated in the competition yesterday where each group had to pitch their own project. We showed a movie trailer style video that we made to demonstrate our future transport concept, Horizon, and we won!!!

    Pictured above is my group with Mark Andrews and our scale model after we were announced the winner. I’ll try to upload our vid soon.

     
  5. The Community Cooker uses trash as fuel to cook food and heat water. It was designed by Jim Archer as a solution to Nairobi’s huge waste problem. The city’s biggest slum, Kibera, is littered with trash and human refuse, and residents have no access to any basic services at all. However, with community cookers in place, slum dwellers can collect rubbish and then use it to heat their food or water. Archer estimates that this could save 2,400 trees from being cut down for fire wood each year. And not only do the slum dwellers get free cooking fuel, but they are inadvertently cleaning the streets and slums of trash. Archer states proudly: “One man’s trash… Is another man’s treasure.”

    To achieve the high enough temperature to burn waste safely (without releasing toxins into the air), water and used engine oil are mixed before coming into contact with a preheated steel plate. This allows the temperatures to get up to 800°C, past the WHO guidelines.

    The community cooker won the World Design Impact Prize for socially responsible design, Icon’s Socially Responsible Design of the Year, and many more awards. It is a relatively simple, but clever, solution to a genuine problem which has come from a deep understanding of the target city, Archer being a Kenyan himself. It is another design (like my previous post on Midomo) that has managed to evade all critisicm - I suppose the only problem I see with it is that it could encourage slum dwellers to scavenge dump sites for trash, handling lots of potentially dangerous items that could range from medical to human refuse. 

     
  6. rivers & water from above

    photography by totaviva

     
  7. Last Friday we had a class trip to MAKLAB, a small digital fabrication studio based in the Lighthouse. In fact I’d already been, and had a similar tour of the place, but I would recommend it to anyone else with an interest in ‘making stuff’. They have several 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC machines etc. and if you pay about £60 a year (less than our workshop fees…) then you get to use it all for half price. 

    After the tour we got a talk from two of the MAKLAB volunteers on Open Source designing. A brief history on how it started (open source software) and then into its present and future, which is a topic I find very interesting. I think the idea of open source products is really exciting and with the arrival of (relatively) low cost 3D printers the whole idea is becoming more and more of a reality. Already there exists free online libraries of products (in digital CAD form), that you can download and print yourself at home. At the same time, this revolutionary concept also raises a lot of new questions that will have to be dealt with; primarily, will there be a way to regulate what people can print? as well as the obvious copyright issues (a combination of advanced 3D scanners and 3D printers could allow people to ‘duplicate’ objects for much cheaper than the cost of buying them), there is also the idea of people home printing illegal objects, bypassing licenses and background checks. Already there exists the possibility to print gun magazines

    Coincidently, the Product Development manager of Shapeways happened to be visiting the MAKLAB at the same time as us, and was able to step in and give an impromptu talk to the class as well. Shapeways is a rapidly growing company that runs an online service where people can upload their designs to the shapeways website (usually as a 3D CAD model) and they will print it and send it to you. This enables the general public to enjoy most of the benefits of having access to a 3D printer (realising their own designs) without having to invest ~£1000 in a machine.

     
  8. The Midomo is an innovative water purifier for use in third world countries where clean water is scarce. The user pulls the wheeled device from their house to the nearest water source, where they can fill up the top tank with up to 50litres of “raw water” (dirty and potentially diseased water). They then wheel the device back to their village, and as they do, the wheels turn a chain which drives a pump, pumping the water through a ceramic filter into the lower tank. After pulling Midomo for 1.2km (a very typical distance between water source and village), all 50litres of water will be in the lower tank, and thus filtered to World Health Organisation drinking standards.

    I first heard about Midomo (and Red Button Design) just after starting university. At least one of the designers was a PDE graduate (my course) and they had just been on Dragon’s Den, receiving funding from all 5 dragons (which was a first at that time, I think). I’ve always loved the idea because it is so simple (both in design and in how it is used) yet it’s benefits are potentially massive. 780 million people lack access to clean water and 3.4million die from water related diseases every year, so obviously there is a huge need for solutions like Midomo. 

    In terms of the actual effectiveness of the product, it seems to be doing very well. Though they had lots of trouble getting funding (mainly due to the fact that VCs don’t want to invest in humanitarian products where profits aren’t high priority) the product is slowly but surely rolling out over many countries in Africa. It is a prime example of ‘parachute design’, as the product was designed in the West (the UK) presumably without even visiting Africa, yet they seem to have got it right. It seems to genuinely work as a solution and I couldn’t find any criticism, only praise and awards.

     
     
  9. A little teaser image from my group’s future transport concept for the Airbus/Bauhaus Luftfahrt project.

     
  10. Yesterday we had a D&T lecture on the future …by a historian, Nicolas Oddy. Being a historian he naturally introduced the future by giving us a pretty huge summary of the past. It was very interesting but not all relevant. The one point he made, however, that really caught my attention was whether it is ever even worthwhile predicting the future because you are always going to be wrong. My favourite example of this is with Raymond Loewy’s Design Evolution Charts (pictured above). While they do have a kind of beauty, and are accurate to an extent, what they can’t predict is the huge paradigm shifts that come along every so often with new technologies. With the evolution of the telephone for example, who could have predicted the rise of the mobile phone? Or the merging of the desktop PC and the phone… It makes me wonder what the point of our transport in 2050 project is.

    On the other hand, if you don’t at least try then you will never be prepared for anything!