I am so glad I have discovered Biomimicry. I watched a series of 4 documentaries on French tv about it and found it really fascinating. Biomimicry is a field of science that studies the design of natural systems such as caudal fins, the way some insects float on water, etc. to build self sufficient and very efficient systems for human societies. For example, biomimicry can be applied to architecture to build buildings that regulate their energy alone depending on the weather and seasons. I extracted this video from one of the documentary to illustrate how biomimicry also applies to everyday objects :
In the video, caudal fins inspired the design of a chair that is perfectly ergonomic because it fits the human shape naturally. In the video you see how responsive the chair is to the human shape/presence without any electronics involved. There is also a robot that is able to grasp objects with the right pressure without any electronic calculations, it’s only mechanical. I use the video as an illustration of the caudal fin chair that really impresses me, so that’s why I didn’t find necessary to translate it. I find it quite impressive because I always thought interactivity was enabled by electronics, but actually it can also be enabled in well designed mechanics. Since there are no electronics involved, technically those interactive objects are not machines, but combined with electronics, they could probably be the intelligent machines of the future.
Indeed, an intelligent machine is not necessarily one to which you talk for every action as imagined in the 50′s. “Bring me tea” “Wash my dishes” etc. Instead I believe it’s a machine that reacts to your presence, that is flexible and self-sufficient, aware of its environment, exactly like living beings just adapt to their environment. For now, interaction with machines remains between humans and machines, but I think machines should also interact with their environment. For example, a self-driving car needs to be aware of the road, other cars, weather conditions etc. AND needs to interact with the driver. Electronics help build the interaction between humans and machines for machines to listen to humans’ instructions, but biomimicry might be a way to build the interaction between machines and their environment. Intelligent machines must be both aware of their environment and of the human’s instructions. I usually insist more on human-machine interaction rather than on machine-environment interaction but, machine-environment interaction is as important, it’s inevitable, and actually for a machine, humans are just a subpart of the environment.
Even if biomimicry doesn’t seem directly related to UI, at least web UI, I’m really inspired by the way the chair just adapts to the human shape, it seems effortless, simple, elegant : natural. It inspires to design similar technology that just adapts intuitively and naturally to the human behavior. On some level, I think designing a webapp is a little like biomimicry except that what we observe is not nature but human systems and societies that already exist and we project or improve the existing processes online. However, biomimicry is definitely related to UI in the general sense because it’s just another way to design consistent and elegant systems. This was a fascinating discovery.