My Fourth BCI Session – Ideas From Nature
Updated: Oct 4
09/26/2021 – My Backyard in Portland, OR
It's officially fall now although this morning feels unusually warm. The air is quite comfortable with a cool breeze here and there. The sky is blanketed in clouds trapping in moisture.
Focus & Intent
For this fourth BCI session, I drew inspiration from the functions and strategies of living beings to apply to radical innovative product design.
This morning it felt especially difficult to settle my wandering mind as a list of remaining homework and chores hung over my head. My body felt heavy with fatigue and the weight of expectations. Time felt slower than usual as the time with my eyes closed seemed to march on and on. The first living element to catch my attention and pull me out of my energy slump, was lively bird calls. I began to count the different sounds and patterns, noticing about six different types of voices. I could hear many geese and many crows honking and chattering incessantly. Sprinkled in, were more rhythmic interjections from smaller birds in my more immediate vicinity. Some were single bursts of noise, while others called three time in a row every couple minutes. I could also sense my dog's presence and as he joined me outside. I could hear Rennie walk up behind me, brushing my back with his tail, then lay down with a dramatic sigh. The bamboo swished in the background as the breeze ruffled the leaves. The wind sounded louder than it felt.
Upon opening my eyes, I began to look for natural functions and strategies:
The bamboo shimmered and swayed in the wind. It can bend quite dramatically before snapping, proving to be quite resilient.
Birds flew over head. Some in groups darting in a seemingly unorganized fashion, but very close together, and others flying solo.
The primarily brown grass had a hint of green throughout, as it responded to the rain in recent days
The berries on the tree are protected by a casing as they ripen, and then the casing opens up when the berry is fully developed, ready to be eaten/seeds ready to be spread
Leaves with ridges stay dry as rain is funneled off of them
Leaves change color as the season changes and they can no longer efficiently photosynthesize. The chlorophyl breaks down, turning them red before they eventually fall off and break down to be recycled as nutrients.
Berries grow in clusters, maybe to save energy since growth efforts would all be directed to one place
Insects hide in the plants for safety
Squirrels use the fence as a local highway, making the most of existing infrastructure
A cloud of birds flew into the giant cherry tree next door and all started knocking dried cherries off the branches. This was actually quite dramatic as nearly 20 birds dropped cherries through the leaves which sounded like a giant rain stick. Were they clumsy in dropping the dried fruit? Or were they going to pick them off the ground later?
In terms of radically innovating new product design, I am drawn to the strategy of conserving energy as represented by the grass, the clustered berries, and the changing leaves. I could see a smart home system that is integrated into the electrical system that shuts off power to devices/appliances that are not currently in use. This would be much easier than constantly plugging and unplugging everything around the house. There could also be a night time and vacation mode that could be programmed ahead of time to turn off power to designated outlets at specific times for specified durations. Secondly, I was inspired by the seasonality of the grass and the changing leaves. I think it would be fun to have holiday decor that has a dormant state when not in use, and then can be "revived" every winter. My first thought was it could be collapsible to save space, but for the sake of radical innovation, maybe it is made out of a material that is activated by extremely low temperatures, and really can only work and "come to life" in the winter. From observing the birds scavenging dried fruit, it would be handy to have a little robot that could climb the tree and pick the fruit at the top that is normally unreachable even with a latter. This would be a product for homeowners rather than commercial applications where I'm sure more industrial products already exist. The little robot could also determine ripeness, and whether or not a piece had already been nibbled by another critter so as to only harvest the best fruit for human consumption. Finally, it could be fun to create a communication network through the neighborhood where fence lines were turned into tracks with a little basket on wheels. People could deliver notes to their neighbors or excess produce from their gardens.