Cesar Rivera

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This project began as an opportunity to look at strange creatures within our ecosystem and replicate through design and technology some of the characteristics that make them unique. As I looked for what this creature would be, I ran into a very interesting little fellow native to my home country, Mexico. The Axolotl, a type of Salamander, is particularly interesting because unlike Salamanders, it remains in a neoteny state for life - think of it as forever young! This particular discovery, together with its ability to regenerate tissues and in some cases even organs, made the Axolotl my source of inspiration for this project.

As a starting point, I began by doing extensive research on regeneration and what happens biologically speaking to the tissue and bone once amputation occurs. Also I looked at the qualities of neoteny in the axolotl and how it prevents it from undergoing metamorphosis. Finally, I studied its environment and threats, since the wild Axolotl is an endangered species. These findings and observations led me to the sketching and developing process, which lasted about two weeks.

LeafON removes packaging from products and delivers them in re-usable smart containers that allow users to help the environment and learn more about their consumption.

The process began by continuously sketching ideas that could potentially develop into an effective system. The only requirement of the project was that the outcome had to have a 3D as well as an interactive component to it. After sketching two hundred ideas of possible objects/interactions that could symbolize the axolotl's qualities, I began to identify certain ideas that I kept repeating in my sketches. This was the concept of the supermarket and how mass consumption is at the vanguard of our current environmental crisis. So I began to envision a supermarket where by removing aspects of its traditional operational system, we could alleviate the impact on the environment. Just like the axolotl doesn't undergo metamorphosis, what would happen if a product reaching the shelf at the supermarket experienced something similar by not fully developing? I started to envision a system that would remove the packaging from products at supermarkets and deliver them in re-usable smart containers that would allow users not only to help the environment but also have more knowledge about it.

The smart container is able to display information digitally on its surface. This allows users to know what the content of the container is, as well as the nutritional information. The smart container can also communicate wirelessly with devices to share information about the amount of product remaining in it. This idea about capability emerged from the axolotl's ability to regenerate limbs. In the smart container, though, this regeneration is the process of letting users know in advance before a product runs out, therefore allowing users to be informed about their containers' content levels.

For the development process of this system, I began by thinking about the container's shape and what it would look like. After sketching and modeling several forms, I decided to turn towards ergonomics and look at how our hands adapt to certain shapes. The clay was a useful medium in this exploration since I was able to feel and mold the container according to a comfortable shape that would fit the hand. This shape resembled the silouette of a leaf which I considered really influential, since after all this container was supposed to be related to our environment as a reminder that technology in the future must coexist more harmoniously with nature. This is how the name LeafON came about, as a play of words that resembles the sound of the words live on. LeafON is about survival, continuity, and balance.

  • Published on August 2012
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