OK, as a follow-up post to the reddit thread on uncomfortable chair design this title is not quite fair. Project Dreamcatcher is not yet ready for general use and testing but if it was we would see some interesting chairs and other designs.
What is Project Dreamcatcher?
Project Dreamcatcher is a shared research initiative between our Design Research and Computational Science Research groups to make the computer aware of your design considerations, constraints and goals. In this new envisioning of Computer Aided Design (CAD), the computer would crunch through your instructions and give you a whole bunch of possibilities that meet your criteria; the computer aids you by doing actual design work.
Let's look at the exciting possibilities this offers with designing a bike frame. A typical bikeframe is usually made of some kind of metal tubing. Our designers created this cool looking bicycle concept with Alias.
They then wanted to explore a number of design ideas relative to the more familiar tube-style design:
- Could the frame be made in a different style?
- How light-weight could the frame be without sacrificing strength?
- Could this frame be 3D printed to use less raw material?
Using these questions in conjunction with Project Dreamcatcher, the following, very unique frame was developed.
Taking advantage of the power of scaleable computing, Project Dreamcatcher was able to address all of the design parameters and test all of the solutions. In meeting the wishes to use less material and not sacrifice strength, this web-like 3D grid was created to fill the shape of the originally designed frame. Our designers could then review the possible solutions, knowing all solutions met their goals, and choose a frame to do additional work on if necessary, for example:
- exploring material colour and decorations
- looking at a clear coating to prevent things from getting stuck in the frame
- thinking about equipment that may be attached to the frame and how that would work
Fast Company took a look at some of the possibilites with Project Dreamcatcher and talked to Autodesk CTO Jeff Kowalski who says:
"In the past couple of years, we have experienced such an explosion of computing power that we can completely change the design equation"
Coincidentally, Jeff also talks about chairs and how this might apply to their design. In our previous post on chair design, Mark Gorecki, a design engineer, asks some good questions about design considerations for furniture that will be used in a public space:
- Leather upholstery and thick padding would be nice to sit on while waiting for your train, but how long before it's ripped to shreds?
- Using an aesthetic material as the "shell" for your item, can that material be coated so that markers, spray paint, etc. can be removed easily?
These could be applied to the design of the chair, along with other important factors, and then the designer could review the possibilities.
Imagine being presented with something like this for some design criteria that specified strength, material type, number of legs and height of the seat:
As a designer you now have potentially thousands of concepts to explore and you know that your main criteria of strength and material are met. You could now move into exploring things like a decorative curve across the back of the chair, cushions, fabric and possible companion pieces like a table.
Thinking about designing the chair at the train station, what if you were not skilled in ergonomics? What if Project Dreamcatcher was connected with the Parametric Human Project and you could treat the human factors as some of the design parameters? You could have a base of chairs to choose from that were ergonomically correct and you could focus on other design considerations.
What would you do if you had an assistant designer that was happy to take on the grunt work for you? What kinds of things would you like to apply Project Dreamcatcher to?