DESIGN – ‘We have to look at technology functioning discreetly in the background so we can be in the moment,’ says Yves Béhar of Fuseproject. ‘Our biggest challenge is to design tools and experiences that make us more human and connected.’ It’s no surprise, then, that when asked to list his three most significant recent projects, the designer revealed works that follow this train of thought.
Personal robots are no longer the stuff of science fiction. Fuseproject’s contribution is ElliQ, an ‘emotionally intelligent robotic companion’ aimed at the aging population. Béhar’s concerns were how the elderly can stay connected to the world as cognitive functions decline, and how they can maintain healthy levels of social and mental activity and reduce loneliness.
‘The design process was an intricate multidisciplinary exercise,’ says Béhar, ‘with experienced designers, graphic and industrial designers working in tandem with Intuition Robotics research to define an entirely new category of robot. The form needed to feel elegant, something an older adult would have in their home, without taking up too much space or looking like a toy.’
2 Aura Powered Clothing
Béhar’s second selection also addresses an aging population. It’s a response to the question: what if technology and design could help us continue to move about the world and engage with it physically, socially and emotionally? Fuseproject teamed up with Superflex on the design and application of the latter’s Powered Clothing, which sees motors, sensors and AI embedded into lightweight, flexible fabric. Supporting the torso, hips and legs, the suit is designed to assist with strength and movement.
As a father of four who knows all too much about sleep deprivation – and hears the same complaint from many other parents – Béhar took the opportunity to use technology and design to solve this very real problem. Asked by Dr. Harvey Karp, author of The Happiest Baby on the Block, to develop the world’s first smart baby sleeper, the designer delivered SNOO. The product automatically delivers Karp’s sleep-sure techniques to infants.
‘One of my favorite principles is that design accelerates the adoption of new ideas,’ says Béhar. ‘Robots can be seen as an engineering feat, but with Hollywood dystopian undertones. They don’t exactly have a “cuddly” reputation. On the other hand, baby furniture is often very plasticky and cliché, made cheaply and not built to last. For me, however, the right design thinking applied to advanced technology can create a whole new era of robots capable of increasing the everyday joy of being human, by simplifying our lives and making our homes more beautiful.’
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