Speculative design project about bioprinting of meat and how it could end up in the kitchen of tomorrow. An in-depth description about the project is available (in German) on the HfG Schwäbisch Gmünd — IG Portfolio.
Cultivator has been featured on the Next Nature Network, which has been a huge inspiration throughout the project and if you’re interested in Cultivator, you’re going to enjoy the projects and articles featured on there.
The general goal of the project was to build a prototype for an exhibition that stimulates a discussion about the future of meat-consumption and its implications in terms of energy-consumption and development of society. The aesthetics of food now and in the future was another topic that we wanted to tackle with our prototype.
We were inspired by the “The state of food and agriculture.” study by the UN, “2063 Dining” by Trendstop for Miele and “The future of kitchens.” by IKEA on a conceptual level and by Otl Aicher’s “The Kitchen is for Cooking” (1982) and Ettore Sottsass’ “About Kitchens” (1992) in terms of how the kitchen has developed in the past and how it might develop.
Through these studies it became clear to us that (especially considering trends like Entomophagy consumption of meat will be more of a luxury product than it already is in the future and that it will be consumed in smaller doses. Therefore we decided that this should be a product that people have at their homes.
User Interface Design
The user interface was done under the consideration of getting out of the way of the discussion about the topic of bioprinting as much as possible but still being provocative and forward-thinking enough so it could act as a conversation-starter. After going through several iterations we ended up with something very simple. From the beginning it was clear that we wanted to create the illusion of the interface being part of the hardware by using a black background that could blend in with the hardware. At the same time the interface should act more like a physical tool without a complicated menu-structure. That’s how we ended up with a horizontally scrolling menu of so-called “compositions” that can be printed with a simple touch of a button.
- Compositions are a simple summary of all there is to know about the meat. Its creator (either the user or someone out of their network) a short summary and its ingredients and their impact related to the current user’s health.
- Glancability was one of our most important issues because it is a kitchen appliance. While the basic “compositions” are very detailed, the moment you start scrolling everything collapses and animates into a very simple view with an image of the creator of the composition, which makes selection incredibly easy.
- The Health-Magic-Wand Tool is a reference to traditional photo-editing software which usese this tool to “simply make a photo better” (in most cases). That’s exactly what we wanted since it doesn’t make sense to let the user decide exactly about the chemical substances in the meat. Cultivator can, related to the user’s health simply enhance the meat while trying to keep the meat’s character.
- Energy was a huge concern, that’s why by default Cultivator enters a low-power mode with an animated signature pattern consisting out of small hexagons only showing the current energy source. (home-grid, public grid or the solar panel on top of the device). Only when the user approaches the device the home-screen is activated.
The industrial design of Cultivator was strongly inspired by today’s modern kitchen-appliances. Especially the black top of the device was a conscious decision since a lot of (easy to) clean surfaces in the kitchen are glossy black (for example glass-ceramic cooktop panels). Another reason for that decision was the idea of implementing a solar-panel into the device itself since kitchens are getting brighter and flooded with sunlight. The effect of blending the iPad in the prototype with the acrylic-glass worked much better in black than i.e. in white.
##Prototype To really get the message across we wanted to build a prototype that is close enough to a kitchen-appliance so that people can focus on discussing the topic of bioprinting meat without getting distracted by ostentatious design. ###Software We realized we had to get the best performance possible out of our prototype or it would ruin the illusion and that’s why we chose Swift. The entire software-part of the prototype was done in under a week but still is very performant.
This prototype includes several interesting bits and pieces that marked the first time using several features of UIKit for us, which was an interesting experience. We experimented with UICollectionView and came up with a user-presence detection using GPUImage by Brad Larson, which works very realiably in detecting a user’s intent of interaction. We originally tried to make the detection more reliable by using face-detection, which resulted in AAFaceDetection.
In the prototype we had to replace the originally used font “Colfax” by Process Type Foundry with Avenir due to licensing problems. Feel free to replace it again if you got a proper license for the original font.
###Hardware Presenting the software without the hardware wouldn’t work at all of course. That’s why we came up with a rather timeless hardware-design that we think could fit in the kitchen of tomorrow at a size smaller than a microwave.
Cultivator was built (without any initial knowledge about the processes) in about two weeks but could be built much faster with a little experience. If you want to build Cultivator on your own or use it as a reference feel free to do so and don’t hesitate contacting us with any questions.
The white body of Cultivator is deep-drawn expandable polysterene, which gives you a nice matte plastic finish. The model used to deep-draw the shell is still in the prototype to give it the weight it needs to feel like a real thing. We used a material called “Ureol”, which is a synthetical very similar to wood in the way it can be treated, to build the model. Make sure to make it very robust since the deep-drawing process can be quite impactful at that size. Everything else is just laser-cut acrylic glass in either black (for the top) or white (for the compartments, etc.) and a very simple rubber mount inside to hold the iPad in place.
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