Macronaut was originally used in a professional Industrial Design setting as a magnifying lens for capturing, documenting and analysing manufacturing defects with early production samples. The resulting magnified images intrigued my colleagues such that Macronaut became popular for creating inspirational design imagery, especially from natural phenomenon and other subjects. Later it became useful for Biomimetic design exploration in University labs and studios. Finally, doctors and dermatologists have found value in medical applications. Overall, it has demonstrated many uses in different markets.
UNIQUE PROPERTIES / PROJECT DESCRIPTION:
Macronaut is a compact, smartphone magnifying lens for creative inspiration and research. It is a great companion for designers and artists of all ages. Macronaut works with most smartphones with or without protective cases and is designed to remain on the phone at all times. 15x magnification offers an unexpected perspective of the world from which to draw design inspiration or for creating stunning photographs. Up until now, Macronaut has been used in design classes at the secondary and university level, particularly in Biomimetic Design and has inspired professional design concepts currently in development. Because of its compact size, it is always ready at hand when inspiration strikes.
OPERATION / FLOW / INTERACTION:
Macronaut's body flexes to snap onto a smart phone. The excess volume inside of the clip enables it to stretch around phones of different thicknesses, even with cases. Macronaut can be easy pivoted to the side, out of the way of the phone's camera lens should magnification not be desired. The size of the product enables the user to keep it on their phone at all times, even in a pocket. This makes the lens ready to use when fleeting inspiration strikes! Most other lenses are too big to remain attached. Macronaut's plastic lens is scratch resistant. Frame colors are bright, such as orange and red to be energetic but also so Macronauts can be easily found if dropped outdoors.
PROJECT DURATION AND LOCATION:
The final design of Macronaut was completed and tested between January 2016 and December 2016 in Blacksburg, Virginia, Usa. The product's use was published in the Journal Zygote Quarterly in January 2017.
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PRODUCTION / REALIZATION TECHNOLOGY:
The outer frame is made of 3d printed Pla plastic. The lens is made of cast acrylic and sourced from a supplier. This combination of material choices balances high quality imagery with low, accessible cost.
SPECIFICATIONS / TECHNICAL PROPERTIES:
Overall dimensions measure: 24mm X 15mm X 20mm
Slit detail in the body allows the frame to stretch open for inserting the lens.
Photography, design inspiration, design research, instagram, biomimetics, home healthcare, STEM
Macronaut began as an accessible creative inspiration tool for photographers, product designers and graphic designers. It was developed in iterations and tested in a Virginia Tech university-level class in experimental design research methods, with a focus on biomimetics. Prototypes were produced and tested through a journal class assignment. Users unanimously enjoyed Macronaut for these inspirational purposes and it has since been tested more widely with students ranging from the secondary school to graduate-student levels. Professors in Natural Sciences and Engineering have tested Macronaut in Denmark, Germany and Ecuador for various research related purposes. Recently, initiatives in the USA to promote interest in Science, Technology and Engineering fields (STEM) have attracted state education planners to using Macronaut in primary school classrooms. Additionally, it became very useful for stimulating biomimetic design research because it helps uncover novel details in nature that could have practical and even humanitarian applications. A few meaningful studio product design projects have resulted from using this tool. Lastly, medical professionals have expressed interest in using to tool for dermatology and remote medical applications. Users with skin rashes, insect bites etc. could send pictures to their doctors for remote examination. Because of the compact size and accessible cost of production, Macronaut is being piloted in these markets. Discovering which are the best markets for use in an ongoing endeavor.
Developing Macronaut had two key challenges. First was finding a way to make the product fit most phones and cases without becoming too big to fit in a pocket on a phone. Being able to keep Macronaut was a top priority so that it would be ready when inspiration strikes. Earliest prototypes were more specialized to specific phone models to remain compact in size, whereas later models could fit multiple models. Some phones with cameras in the center of the phone's backside cannot use this model of Macronaut, but many models can: Apple, Sony, LG, Samsung and many others. The final design balances compact size with the ability to be used on many phone models. The second challenge was finding the perfect level of magnification. After trying many levels of magnification, 15x was selected because it creates a perfect balance of creative surprise while maintaining a level of recognition of the object being photographed.
TEAM MEMBERS (1) :
Brook S. Kennedy
All photos taken by Brook Kennedy