Nov 27, 2010

Nervous System [Profile, Cinder, Processing]

Nervous System is a small collective founded in 2007 by Jessica Rosenkrantz and Jesse Louis-Rosenberg with aim to create innovative products using physical and computer based algorithmic tools. Jessica Rosenkrantz graduated from MIT in 2005 and holds degrees in Architecture and Biology. Jesse Louis-Rosenberg also attended MIT, majoring in Mathematics. He previously worked as a consultant for Gehry Technologies building modeling and design automation. Mixed backgrounds have allowed the team to deploy innovative approaches to product design resulting in objects that are both engaging visually and in the process they were created.
The diversity of output ranges from jewellery to furniture generally inspired by nature – decay, cell formations, recursion, landscape. Using Processing, MeshLab and most recently Cinder, most products relish the complexity aesthetic resulting in intricate creations made by the machines – 3d printers/laser cutters/CNC, etc. Seen as methods for output, the team employs computer algorithms to derive and extract still forms. Driven mainly by aesthetics, these objects are beautiful, unique, made in porcelain,  stainless steel, wood, nylon, wool felt, rubber and more.

Leaf shaped earrings with a pattern that contrasts a primary structure of organic curves with a small scale geometric texture. A two stage growth process generated the pattern. First we grew a sparse open tree of veins; afterwords, we introduced a second set of signals to grow the more perpendicular micro-scale pattern.

Most recently, for the Reaction show at Rare Device, the team recreated two of their design algorithms as interactive ipad applications using Cinder framework that allow visitors in the gallery to engage in our process and try their hand at the generative. The two applications are Cell Cycle, which creates cellular bracelets and rings for 3dprinting, and Xylem which simulates leaf vein formation.
The Cell Cycle app uses a physics simulation to sculpt a mesh for 3dprinting. Visitors can use multitouch controls to stretch, twist, and scale the basic form. Using the control panel on the left they can change the basic mesh parameters and define boundary curves along the edges of the piece. Most significantly, they can also touch anywhere on the model to subdivide cells and introduce additional springs to the system. (video)

The Xylem app allows people to paint on and erase horomone sources that will effect the venation structure’s growth. (video)

We can’t deny the beauty of these objects but one can’t help but question the static nature of them. Algorithms are as much about variables as they are about output. Freezing them in time, giving them static shape questions how viable is one objects to the next. If they exist in the range, does only personal aesthetic preference decide importance of one over another and where the process plays such an important part how can we ignore their pre and postdecessors. Can their physical manifestation exist not just as a single frame and how does this affect their validity. Are these just decoration and if so, does it then matter if they were created using generative tools or just simply drawn as they are? Just a thought..

The team nevertheless continues to inspire, creating some of the most wonderful objects out there. While the process may be somewhat questionable I do enjoy their beauty. It’s also very exciting to see what is possible and when it comes to keeping up with the manufacturing methods Nervous System definitely appear to be few steps ahead.
Nervous System | Flickr | Shop
See also Jared Tarbell [Profile, Events]

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