After going through literature on Biomimicry and after comparing it with Sir Richard Buckminster Fuller’s vision of a world which works for all humanity, one realizes that the present-day knowledge of biomimicry far supersedes its present-day application. Jenine Benyus and Michael Pawlyn gave this ever-present discipline a new start and young revolutionaries like Neri Oxman reinvigorated this subject in more than one ways. Having said that, one also notices a juggling of scientific jargon going on right now. Biomimicry is not obsolete, for instance, and is not replaced by big new idea of material ecology. Biomimicry simply means emulating the processes of nature and material and chemical processes are only a couple of many such processes. This innovation journal was established because it was being felt by the author that we have arrived a point in biomimicry research (and too soon, sadly) whence design inquiry is deviating from ‘a world which works for all humanity’ towards a ‘profound yet just another artistic expression’. So, here is another attempt to foresee humanity as a synergetic outcome of its tools and technologies. An attempt made by actually designing the future, one gadget at a time.
A consistent design process is most imperative in designing a nature gadget. There are a lot of traps along the way such as forced copying of a natural process where it isn’t needed, individual’s tendency towards a rather whimsical artistic expression and obliviousness to existing technology etc. Design stages for each gadget are therefore kept in the following order:
- Problem Statement
Time is spent on observing, thinking and reflecting upon the present-day tools and technologies. Sometimes, one reads up on or watches a video of an organism and gets an inspiration for a gadget, instantly. That too could be a fine approach but there is a chance of a forced or tainted design process in this approach. Therefore a list of problems are first identified. (In my case, I do this over Saturdays and Sundays. I try not to do anything else on these days. I dine out, usually have my tea at some fancy café, change sceneries and faces around me, sometimes I browse internet for news and at other times, simply reading fiction helps a great deal). The problems identified at this stage vary from politics to sports, from engineering to arts. So, I do the next step.
- Classification of Problem
NatureGadget has been divided into six categories of problem statements namely Architecture, Sports, General Utility, Art, Mobility (or Transportation) and Defence.
The problem is understood more accurately by formulating a Research Question i.e. what is it exactly that I am looking for? It helps break down the larger problem into a manageable task and also helps me allocated it the most suitable category.
At this stage, similar problems (and their consequent solutions) are searched in nature. It is like a Literature Review of Nature. There are several freely accessible databases available online. Sometimes, close scenarios are found in major scientific journals (which aren’t freely accessible. But hei, now you know which phenomenon/species/process to search for!) The closest scenario in nature to the problem identified before, is selected for further study. It leads (must lead) to other directions. Such as structures, materials, existing and predicted technologies.
One of my most inspirational figures is Prof. Fabio Todeschini of University of Cape Town. He visited Pakistan briefly in order to conduct a workshop on Urban Planning. But I remember him most for a. Introducing me to African vernacular jazz music and b. His experience as a student of Sir Richard Buckminster Fuller. He (Prof. Fabio) told me that Mr. Fuller would enter the class and the first thing he did, would almost always be that he would ask students to bring him the latest research on a given topic.
The idea of latest research is central to NatureGadget.com. If one is not aware of say, an advanced material which can perform a certain task by itself, a lack of such knowledge can render the whole project, along with time, creativity and craftsmanship which has gone into it, sterile before it’s even published. An independent research is done therefore, on many facets of technology related to the given gadget.
Selected sources of research are put together in the form of a Research Montage. It may help readers visually grasp the kind of citations which have been looked into. The weblink to each source is mentioned under the montage. (Just click on the text/title of an image. Perhaps, one day I’ll have enough workforce that they can embed the click-able squares in a montage. But for now, separate links should do.)
After making a number of doodles, sketches and diagrams along the way, a patent drawing or an invention illustration is prepared. This drawing is tagged with numeric labels which mark the important details which can’t be inserted into a drawing. Scientists, engineers, researchers who are working in the same area of research ought to be able to identify these labels. However, general readers should be able to visualize a gadget accurately with the help of these illustrations. Another drawing (feature image of the post) further helps visualization of the gadget.