Designing for Unnatural Selection: Bionic Bunny Ears for Bengal Tigers?

Guest blog post by Zak Brazen, our May Cooper Parlor moderator and Creative Strategist for Brazenworks

Prefabitats for polar bears? A jet pack for pandas? Bionic bunny ears for Bengal tigers? It’s amazing how much ingenuity 55 people can exhibit in two short hours. But that’s just what can happen when you facilitate a motley crew (wink) of design professionals, biologists, and technologists toward a common goal. Entitled, WTF, Evolution? Designing Unnatural Selection, the Cooper Parlor on May 23rd explored the science and fantasy of creating gadgets for animals to ‘leap frog’ the 6th wave of extinction. As Karolina, one of our attendees put it, “Still buzzing after today’s Parlor & lively presentation. Pandas need design advocates too!”

I agree with Karolina – this Parlor proved to be an engaging, informative and creative way to approach the big, heavy topic of extinction and environmental degradation. Another participant put it this way, “This exercise really helped me stretch my empathy skills which is really relevant to my client work.”
Participants packed into Cooper’s beautiful new studio loft in San Francisco for a 30-minute presentation, followed by 45 minutes of small group work to generate outlandish ideas and creative solutions to some of today’s most pressing environmental problems. To round out the Parlor, teams presented their ideas to the larger group for feedback and discussion. The next ‘evolutionary’ step is to further unpack these great ideas and bring them back down to earth by identifying actual opportunities for application. In fact, I’m currently designing a follow-up workshop with UX research rockstar Wyatt Starosta, called The UI of Nature. For those interested, the Cooper Parlor will host The UI of Nature on Wednesday, September 25 (tickets will go on sale one month prior; stay tuned to Cooper’s blog for details).
Some fantastic visual recording of the “WTF, Evolution?” Parlor by Chris Noessel:

I was particularly pleased by how much fun people had with this topic; teams really stepped up with their gregarious ‘infomercial’ presentations! You can see them in action, along with my talk about the implications of the 6th wave of evolution here:

Cooper Parlor: WTF, Evolution? Designing for Unnatural Selection from Cooper on Vimeo.

The Final Concepts: Adaptations for Pandas, Frogs, Whales, Birds & Tigers

Bamboo Helper for Panda Bears
Team: Chris Noessel, Ben Remington, Shelly Abramson, Mair Dundon, Alan Cooper

• Easy to sprinkle on your favorite bamboo stalk
• Turns your poop into an addictive drug!!
• Humans become addicts, subsequently become huge bamboo and panda proponents
• Five tasty flavors: Cannabinoid, Hallucinogen, Anabolic Steroid, inebriant, Stimulant
Bionic bunny ears for Bengal tigers
Team: Celestial Hanley, Jason Fain, Wendy Reynolds, Chris Portugal

• Supersonic hearing for identifying human predators
• One-size fits all
• Never get caught by surprise again
• Three bionic strengths (correlates to the distance that the ears can hear – 5, 50 and a whopping 100 miles)
• Smelly stench to further repel potential human predators
Prefabitats for polar bears
Team: Meredith Lee, Bennett Wetch

• “Grow your floe” convenience (ice generating habitat)
• Multiple power sources (wind, solar, wave)
• Salt for preserving meat in the off-season
• Co-located
• Mobile & expandable
• Anchor (included)
• Never worry about finding habitat again.
• Seal-O-Culture (food & motor all-in-one!)
Flash Mob Forest for Frogs
Team: Lindsay Eyink, Ariel Waldman, Gariel Waldman, Tom Jamolowski, Lisa Ballard, Nicko Fusso

• Compact trees, leaves and sticks conveniently organized in a frog-sized backpack
• Built-in HAM radio signal to find other Sapo Limosa frogs
• Thermos of tea for health/disease control
• GPS enabled so you’ll never get lost
• Take the environment you need with you
• Attracts a potential mate
• Male and female custom-fitted backpacks
• Variety of patterns and prints to suit your style
• GLBT frog friendly
Right Whale Spouter
Team: Alexa Bisinger, Jason Csizmadi

• Net Dissolving and sexual enhancement powder all-in-one!
• Stops net injuries and deaths by dissolving nets quickly and efficiently
• Gender-specific pheromones
• Attracts mates (brings sexy back)
• Distracts whaling boats by entertaining the crew with rainbow-colored powder
• Comes in a variety of colors: Glitter, rainbow, phosphorescent or invisible
• Scented
Big Beautiful Panda (BBP)/Cooking Heavy
Team: Christen Penny, Brianna Cutts, Dante Guintu, Marissa Mossberg
• Panda vision goggles help you find the best bamboo
• Sugar cane/bamboo hybrids allow you to eat twice the calories with half the effort!
• Eco-tourists subsidize cost of goggles and hybridization program
• You, as a panda, get credits for posing with tourists – and you can cash in your credits for goggles/sugar-boo!
Camoshin of Paradise
Team: Kim Vincent, Nate Springer, and Karoline Pormanczuk

• Camouflage from below
• Protective webbing
• Birds can still see each other for mating purposes
• Renders birds invisible from below so that kids cannot see them
• Biodegradable model
• Multi-functional design (serves as nesting material)
More great Flickr photos of the experience here. And, a hearty thank you to all of the Parlor participants–you did a great job! And, gratitude to the Cooperistas: Kendra, Wyatt, Julie, Teresa and Alan Cooper for their support in making the event a success.
Hungry for more on this topic? This should keep you busy:
TedX DeExtinction
Stewart Brand: The dawn of de-extinction. Are you ready?
Bring back the wooly mammoth
The future of Human-Centered Design

Next Up for Cooper Parlor:

New Digs, New Cooper
Wednesday, June 26, 6-9pm
Come see our new studio during SF Design Week’s studio crawl
RSVP here.
Designing Culture: The Secret of Great Teams & Organizations
Thursday, July 11, 6:30-8:30 (doors open at 6pm)
If you lead a team, want to lead, work remotely, build stuff, wrangle people daily, or just want to hear about (and create!) techniques for creating inspired team culture, don’t miss this Cooper Parlor!
Tickets here.
Stay in touch with us on the Cooper Parlor Facebook page. We hope to see you at a Parlor soon!

Teresa Brazen

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