The hybrid of nature and technology

With technology dominating a huge part of today’s lifestyle, sometimes we need to just stop and smell the roses.

Along with this idea, the issues of sustainability and use of resources come into play when designing and creating products in today’s world. With all the developments in technology and the overall increased use of all things electronic, it is great to reconnect, use and appreciate everything natural around us.

The Stone Mouse designed by Tom Gerhardt “transforms any stone into a fully functional computer mouse” (Gerhardt 2010). The product works by having a ring base which has the technology to enable the user to click and drag as per normal, with the desired stone sitting on top of the ring.  This product involves poetic design as of the relationship created between natural and manmade objects. Along with the visual form of the rock being organic, each individual mouse is unique as the stone being used is chosen specifically by each individual. The stone could potentially be sentimental or have a particular memory associated with it, adding to the poetic nature of the design. This design also touches on sustainability, as only part of the product is being mass produced, the other half comes naturally from the earth.  Here’s a short video of a demonstration of the Stone Mouse (tightlikerice 2010).

Stone mouse - Tom Gerhardt 2009
Stone mouse – Tom Gerhardt 2009
Stone mouse - Tom Gerhardt 2009
Stone mouse – Tom Gerhardt 2009

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A further project developed by Gerhardt is the Mud Tub. This project explores the hybrid of nature and technology, breaking the norm of how people would usually interact with computers. The project involves squishing, pushing, sliding, pulling and punching mud which controls computer games, with the aim of the project being to “close the gap between our bodies and the digital world” (Gerhardt 2009) Like the Stone Mouse; the Mud Tub forms a connection between natural materials and manmade technology, defying the norm of technology being sleek, lightweight and streamlined in design. The rich tactile nature of this product is what makes it interesting because there Is no other product like this on the market out there. I think people will be drawn to this product and enjoy using it because of the physical interaction with the mud as well as the effect it has on the human senses, compared to the bland, rigid interaction with regular technology. This short video demonstrates users playing with the product. (Deathcharge9 2009)

On the issue of sustainability and use of resources, French based company Oree develops technological accessories which are artisanally crafted in southern France. The company uses high quality natural resources, handpicking each sheet of timber or piece of leather used for production. Oree prides themselves on ‘preserving their [materials’] genuine unprocessed beauty, emphasizing their timeless elegance and minimizing waste’ Oree uses high quality materials in order to get the longest use possible out of their products to minimise waste. Their product Board 2 is similar to Gerhardt’s work in the sense of linking natural products with technology – being computer accessories. The keyboard is made in either premium maple or walnut wood. The craftsmanship is to a very high standard on this item, and the tactile feel of the timber adds to the raw, natural aesthetic of the product.

Board 2 - Oree
Board 2 – Oree

As seen in the all the products mentioned, redesigning or developing products that use natural materials can produce beautiful, raw textures and uniquely organic designs. Using natural resources in product design can bring individuals back down to earth, away from all the high tech products out there and enable them to appreciate all the natural things surrounding them.

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