Friday, July 2, 2010

RCA graduate show features 'Menstruation Machine'

By David Rowan
RCA graduate show features 'Menstruation Machine'

The Royal College of Art's summer graduate show is a pretty reliable source of new talent. Last year's highlights included Min-Kyu Choi's folding 240V mains plug, which Wired featured last August, and Dominic Hargreaves' fold-up bicycle -- two radically different but equally smart takes on space-saving foldable product designs.

Last week I had a sneak preview of the graduate show for the design interactions course, in the company of department head Anthony Dunne. There's a definite playful vibe this year -- the show is less about tech-driven products designed to be marketed as it is about provoking thoughts, debates and (very often) smiles. And oh boy, there's material here to smile at.

Some examples:

Hiromi Ozaki has designed a "Menstruation machine" -- a wearable metal suit that allows a boy "to experience the painful bleeding of menstruation" (video embedded below). Yep, the suit is designed to release blood stored in its reservoir over the course of the cycle. Hiromi lives her musical life as Sputniko! – and if you hear her Google Song once, it's a certainty that you'll be humming it a week later.

Then there's the Floppy Legs Portable Hard Drive, by James Chambers -- a portable disk drive that stands up if it detects liquids nearby (it uses an Arduino microcontroller with servo motors). It's part of Chambers's project to conceptualise how technology would evolve if in the natural world. So he's created The Attenborough Design Group (named after Sir David) to develop a bunch of imagined products that would adapt to changing circumstances. These include the Gesundheit Radio, which sneezes occasionally to expel potentially damaging dust; and the AntiTouch Lamp, which sways away if you get too close to its delicate halogen bulb.

You may also enjoy the "Genetically Engineered Sound Garden", part of a project on "acoustic botany" by David Benqué, in which plants are engineered to make music.

There's also Nuclear is Good, by Oliver Goodhall, a persuasion-based exercise designed to convince the public that nuclear-power stations offer a clean, near limitless energy solution that could allow us to meet CO2 emission targets.

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