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Koert van Mensvoort

Creative Director
Artist and philosopher. The discovery of Next Nature has been the most profound experience in his life so far.
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Biomimicmarketing

Is it a Plane? Is it a Bird?

The zoomorphic designers of Festo, whom you might know from the robot penguins and a robotic elephant trunk, now managed to decipher the flight of birds. Their prototype is modeled on the herring gull and can take off, fly and land while its flight is controlled remotely from the ground in real time.

We are unsure whether these robotic birds will be participating in the enforcement of the no-flight zone in Libya. Anyhow, next time you see a bird flying overhead, look closer.

Thanks Wouter Walmink & Iñaki Merino Albaina.

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Innovative Nostalgia

Angel with Cellphone adorns Cathedral

To mark the twelve-year restoration of the Sint Jan cathedral in Den Bosch, a new statue of an angel carrying a mobile phone was added to the building. The angel joins the many other statues adorning the outside of the mediaeval cathedral.

Member of the churchboard, Pieter Kohnen, explained the modern frivolity by explaining that “angels help us to communicate with the invisible world. Specifically, in these days, in which so many modern communication means are available, angels want to remain reachable.”

The statue was created by sculptor Ton Mooy, who was responsible to for the renewal of the statues on the cathedral. The last in the series needed a modern twist, he decided. The phone has just one button, the artist says – it directly dials God. As well as holding a mobile phone, the carved stone angel is also wearing jeans. Peculiar image of the week.

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Theory

Napkin Sketch

Ying Yang style refinement of the classical nature-culture divide.

Biomimicry

Vertical Farming

Columbia professor Dickson Despommier imagines filling New Yorks skyscrapers with farms. As over 50% of the world population now lives in urban areas, this scenario could solve distribution problems and reconnect people with their food. Unsure if the pig skyscraper is also incorporated in the plan.

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Anthropomorphobia

Voodoo Phone

Japanese professor Hiroshi Ishiguro from Osaka University has quite a track record of threading the uncanny valley. Remember his Doppelgänger Robot and Geminoid Female? His current proposal brings new dimensions to mobile communications: Humanoid dimensions.

Although our human body language is one the most effective and natural channels for communication, it plays no role in mobile communication so far. Hence Hiroshi Ishiguro teamed up with NTT Docomo and Qualcomm to develop a humanoid shaped phone, called Elfoid, which adds an element of realism to long-distance communication by recreating the physical presence of a remote person.


The fleshy urethane skinned prototype has a deliberate genderless and ageless appearance, as this should allow for the projection of the personality of any caller. Equipped with a camera and motion-capture system, the Elfoid phone will be able to watch the user’s face and transmit motion data to another Elfoid phone, which should then reproduce the face and head movements in real-time.

The Elfoid phone immediately reminded us of the voodoo communication device for lovers, conceptualized by Yu Yu Chien some years ago. Although some of the negative connotations of voodoo are better avoided, projecting a remote person in a hand held doll, has proven to provide for a powerful psychological effect. Contrary to many of Ishiguro’s earlier humanoids the Elfoid phone combines human realism with a strong symbolic quality that could turn out to be a winning team.

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Nano Supermarket

Nano World Map

The NanoWorld Map is an imaginative map of the emerging world of nanotechnology. It presents an overview of the state of the art of nanotechnology: its application domains, its enabling technologies and products.

When traveling through the landscape of the Nano World one comes across its opportunities, fears, risks and desires. Established applications are presented as cities, whereas speculative applications are rendered as villages.

Map out your route or travel along the given routes on the map. Imagine how the products on your journey will have impact on your life and the life of others. Would you use the products? How can this change your life and what will be the impact on your environment?

Launch the: Online Version of the Nano World Map.


The Nano World Map was designed by Niko Vegt, advised by Hendrik-Jan Grievink, Koert van Mensvoort and Bart Walhout in collaboration with the Rathenau Institute. Created for the Nano Supermarket. Sponsored by Nanopodium.

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Biomimicry

Tree Temple

So we may think ‘guided growth‘ is a typically 21th century design methodology, yet apparently it was also in vogue in the 19th century.

According the original description in the Picture magazine 1893, this century old Maple tree “has been turned into a kind of temple of two stories, each of its compartments being lighted by eight windows, and capable of containing twenty people wit ease. The floors are constructed of boughs skillfully woven together, of which the leaves make a sort of natural carpet. The walls are formed of thick leafage, in which innumerable birds build their nests”

We are unsure if this tree ever existed or that is a 19th century design fiction.

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Boomeranged Metaphors

Breeding QR codes

You look at the great dane and wonder what information the QR codes on its pelt might contain. You point your smart phone camera at the dog and realize you’ve been hit by a boomeranged metaphor.

Our peculiar image of the week was taken by Adriaan Wormgoor.

Biomimicry

Augmented Ecologies

It might take a while before this goes mainstream, if ever, but there is a certain luster in being a plant VJ.

Augmented Ecologies is an installation by Guido Maciocci, who rigged up plants with sensors to create a kinesthetic user experience with movement, touch, sound and light. When the user touches the plants or pressure sensitive moss they create different types of musical notes.

Biomimicry

Fly Paper Clock

Bionic horror by designers James Auger and Jimmy Loizeau, who have created a clock that traps insects on flypaper before depositing them into a vat of bacteria. The resulting chemical reaction – a form of digestion – results into electric power that keeps the roller rolling and the clock ticking.

At first sight the Fly Paper Clock seems odious and prosperous, however, we must applaud its self-sustaining quality. Will we one day have our houses crowded of insect catching domestic robots? NPR has an article on more meat eating furniture, including a table that consumes mice.

Thanks Roy van den Heuvel.

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Plastic Planet

Plastic Planet

We tend to think of plastic as a cheap, inferior and ugly material used to make children’s toys, garden furniture and throwaway bottles. But as an experiment, imagine for a moment a world in which plastic was extremely rare, like gold or platinum, and plastic objects were devastatingly expensive to produce. One would encounter plastic objects only at special occasions; one would see and touch very few plastic objects throughout one’s lifetime. I know it’s a challenge, but try to imagine, for the sake of our experiment, that plastic was scarce, available only to the happy few, and the masses lived in a world of wood, pottery and metals. Ready?

Now look around you and grab the first plastic object in your surroundings. Look at the object. Study the object. It doesn’t matter whether it is a coffee cup, a cigarette lighter, a pen or a plastic bag. This is a special moment. You are now holding one of the few, delicate pieces of plastic you will ever get to touch. Feel how durable it is. Feel how light it is considering its volume. Feel how strong and rigid it is, or how very flexible. Get a sense of how easy it must have been to mold. Understand that it could be molded into something else again. If plastic weren’t such an omnipresent material, we would realize that it is beautiful. We would realize what a disgrace it is that we throw away so much of it.

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Feed-Back

Exploring the Oceans of Plastic

Captain Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation first discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – an endless floating waste of plastic trash. Now he’s drawing attention to the growing, choking problem of plastic debris in our seas.

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Fake-for-Real

Fake Plastic Bags – Made From Real Leather

Fakeness is traditionally associated with inferiority; cheap Rolexes that break in two weeks, plastic Christmas trees, leaking silicone breasts, imitation caviar… However, in a society in which everything is a copy of a copy, the ‘fake’ seems to gain a certain authenticity.

Can you imagine anything more classy and luxurious than these anonymous, brand less, recognizable ‘throw away’ bags re-created in durable, high quality leather by Femke de Vries? Better than the real thing!

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Hyperreality

Alex Gross

Indulge in the paintings by Alex Gross. There is ‘something’ next nature about them… If happen to have more information on what that ‘something’ is, feel free to enlighten us in the comment box. Peculiar image of the week.

Via Pinktentacle.

Designed-by-Evolution

Did Nature Cease to Exist in the ’60s?

Our historical snippet of the moment is a Canadian television fragment from 1968 featuring a debate between Norman Mailer and Marshall McLuhan on the implications of media technology and whether nature still existed.

The two heroes of the ’60s are absolute opposites. Leaning forward in his chair, Mailer is assertive, animated, hot, engaged. McLuhan, abstracted and smiling wanly, leaning backward, cool. Mcluhan argues “The planet is no longer nature,” he declares, to Mailer’s uncomprehending stare; “it’s now the content of an art work.” Mailer: “Well, I think you are anticipating a century, perhaps”.

Did Nature cease to exist in the ’60s? Of course not. It just changes along with us.

Via Roughtype.com. Thanks Monique.

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Biomimicry

Playing with Microbes – Biotic Games

Stanford researchers are developing ‘biotic games’ involving paramecia and other living organisms. So far, they have created three games that mimic classic video games.

The “biotic games” involve a variety of basic biological processes and some simple single-celled organisms. One game in which players guide paramecia – the single-celled organisms used in countless biology experiments from grade school classes to university research labs – to “gobble up” little balls, a la PacMan, was named PAC-mecium. They’ve also created Biotic Pinball, POND PONG and Ciliaball, named after the tiny hairs, called cilia, that paramecia use in a flipper-like fashion to swim around – and in the game enables kicking a virtual soccer ball.

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Anthropomorphobia

Disgusting Switches

If a light switch would be hairy or snotty nobody would want to turn on the light anymore, which is exactly why designer Katrin Baumgarten created some of the most one nauseating switches she could imagine.

One of the switches sprays snot at the one who dares to push it, while another one simply retreats when the finger comes near. A third one has tiny moving hairs to refrain you from switching. The message? Be mindful about your energy use. You really have to need the light before you dare switching one of Baumgartens disgusting creations.

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