Amplifying Nature Through Design: Meet Super Nature

<p>Shanghai design studio creates interactive experiences and artworks that connect us back to nature and humanity.</p>

Living in a big city makes us either deeply long for nature, or forget about it completely. Shanghai-based design firm Super Nature has been bringing the concept of nature closer to city dwellers through their beautiful art installations.

Their latest restrospective “The Scent of Light” featured not only some of our favorite interactive installations, like the scientific theory-inspired Lost In Pascal’s Triangle and PRISMA1666, but also a light installation created by hundreds of LED flowers, and a collection of natural specimens that illutrates how design and creative ideas often originate from the natural environment around us.

Recently, Super Nature was approached by tech giant Toshiba to create a unique interactive experience for their new product. Working with Great Works China, they combined wearable technology and Toshiba’s new tablet computer to create a human robot called “Tablet Man.” Keeping the natural posture and behavior of a human form, Tablet Man offers the public a more “human” opportunity to share through technology. People can share their stories by recording themselves, or send message in real time to social networks. Tablet Man also responds to people’s interations with special sensors embedded in the suit, which trigger different patterns of EL lights on his body.

We caught up with one of Super Nature’s founders, Yoeh Guan Hong, to learn more about how they created Tablet Man’s suit.

The Creators Project: Can you tell us more about how you developed the suit concept?
Yoeh Guan Hong:
The theme of the project is "Future You," so the first thing in mind was to create a robotic character for the future. After understanding the intention of this project more, [we decided] the character should reflect humanity. We scraped the robot idea and revised the concept. "Tablet Man" is a character that is human-like and friendly, people should have boundaries when interacting with him. The futuristic look of "Tablet Man" was realized by responsive lighting effects on the suit with embedded sensors.

What were the challenges you faced in designing the suit?
This is the first attempt for the team to design a costume, a wearable interactive suit with a responsive lighting feature. Without any knowledge of costume design, we spent hours studying and researching the design process and methodology. We collaborated with a friend, a fashion designer who helped us make the costume, and we took care of the design, technology, and integration of the system.

We tried various types of fabrics and lighting materials. We needed to consider many factors such as durability, weight, safety, etc. One of the most challenging parts was figuring out how to attach 11 tablets that weigh more than 5kg in total to the suit. Another challenge was the lighting system and wiring method. How to make them robust and safe to wear were the key priorities we considered during the design process. We made prototypes and went through various trials and errors to overcome all these (foreseen and unforeseen) challenges.

What’s next? any exciting news or upcoming projects that we should know about?
We are going to develop more art installations as we wish for next year. We hope to create more projects that related back to nature and inspire us in many ways.