For a guy who doesn’t use computers, Philippe Starck sure loves to test the tech. He recently teamed up Kartell and Autodesk to showcase “the world’s first production chair” designed with the help of… I’m sorry, through a conversation with, Artificial Intelligence. Making the announcement at the Salone del Mobile furniture fair, the process… apologies again, conversation, between the two – designer + computer – was documented.

This process evolved into a creative conversation much like what would happen between two humans. But to get there, we had to bridge the gap of understanding between the designer’s vision and what an intelligent yet still immature version of our A.I. was able to deliver. In getting to know each other, Starck was teaching the system about design intent while the A.I. was trying to learn as much as possible, in order to be as helpful as possible. As the relationship between the two matured, the system became a much stronger collaborative partner, and began to anticipate Starck’s preferences and the way he likes to work.”

Mark Davis, Senior Director of Design Futures at Autodesk

I have another idea of how that conversation went, but let’s stay with the gentle, understanding machine listening to his questions. How did the conversation start?

Kartell, Autodesk and I asked the artificial intelligence a question: do you know how we can rest our bodies using the least amount of material? Artificial intelligence, without culture, without memories, without influence, responded only with intelligence, it’s ‘artificial’ intelligence. A.I is the first chair designed outside our brain, out of our habits and how we are used to thinking.”

Philippe Starck – on the design of the A.I. Chair for Kartell

I’m glad it at least thought we would want to sit. Can I get an amen? Cause I’m pretty sure if I asked a machine that question, it would be answered with a spike through the abdomen. But let’s keep with the gentle, understanding, uninfluenced machine.

Basically, the vision of the design and aesthetics was the influence input given by Starck to the software, which then generated the design iterations, powered by iterative algorithms that sort and sift the influence input until the desired outcome is achieved. We call this a modern ‘human-machine collaboration’, but it’s better than the collaboration you have with your 3D software now, because it does more of the work for you while you do less. Whatcha think? Kind of cool that the software uses an algorithm to answer the brief? Instead of working through the iterations yourself?

Autodesk helped Starck use a prototype of their generative design software to work through the design iterations you see above. (See what David Perry made using generative design in Fusion 360 here.) The brief from Kartell was simple: design a chair that uses minimal material, is strong and stable, as well as aesthetic and commercially viable. Did they succeed? If it were not revealed, would you have known that machine learning was behind the design?

I’ll leave you with Starck’s thought on the design from an inteview after the post A.I chair flurry of adoration. He states, “The A.I chair is the beginning of a great freedom—a great revolution—that human revolutions can no longer offer.”

Author

Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.