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Innovation Design Engineering (MA/MSC)

Matteo Guerrato

Matteo is an Italian multidisciplinary designer based in London. He graduated with a Bachelor of Art in Industrial Design at Politecnico of Milan and worked as a freelance designer for Hugo & Boo, an architectural firm, before joining the dual MA/MSc Innovation Design Engineering, at Royal College of Art and Imperial College, London. He has collaborated with several companies, including Ebbsfleet Development Corporation and Arrital, with recent work exhibited at Milan Design Week and Milan Furniture Fair. He also contributed to the development of a racing car for the European competition Formula SAE1.

Naiad emerges from an exploration of the future of aquatic living collections. The research underlines how most people believe that fish, unlike mammals, do not seem to have emotional perceptions, lacking interactivity and affections. And, this is finally connected to a lower empathy towards these creatures, which bring invisible consequences leading to an objectification attitude. Simultaneously, fish are also very difficult to decipher, as if forced to suffer in silence. And this translates into a dramatic premature mortality rate in the domestic environment.

But then, the revelation. You can only imagine my astonishment when I started connecting all the dots and realized that the whole time I was snorkelling underwater, the fish were actually communicating. And to do that they use movements, behaviours, rituals, colours and textures. I hadn't figured it out yet but, fish are a bit like designers.

This is why we need a tool that helps to bridge this species gap, which allows us to expand our senses and our perceptual abilities, creating the opportunity to establish communication and begin to understand them. And technology helps us in this process.

Hence, welcome Naiad, the first AI communication tool that deciphers fish behaviours, enabling safer interactions and improving mutual well-being. A sort of fish decoder we can say. 

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— Through artificial intelligence, Naiad identifies parameters that are totally invisible to the human eye, if not to the eye of a few experts. And it converts these readings regarding stress level and fish behaviours into an evaluation of emotional state which sets the basis for the communicative occasion.
— Movement is one of the parameters detected. The paths are compared with pre-existing behavioural models deriving, for the most part, from previous research by experts in the field. If a certain behavioural pattern is recognized, a state is suggested to the machine. For example, tapping on the aquarium glass pushes the fish to jump with an increase in speed (fig. A), if the fish is stressed it tends to stay close to the aquarium walls looking for support (fig. B).
— The AR camera is the main communication method that reads people's voices or allows you to type in questions. The autonomous system can send notifications to the user remotely as if the fish wanted to contact the owner. In addition, a sheet of activities and parameters of the fish is integrated and continuously updated to prevent any bad interactions that would be tracked and banned.
— The gaze is applied using AR technology on the real fish as a sort of filter that changes constantly according to the fish readings and proved to be an immediate and direct way for an emotional understanding of the psychosomatic well-being. Naiad restores emotional traits to the eye so that the person can reflect on it and the mirror neurons, typical of empathy, can be triggered.

Here you can see the first working prototype of Naiad's hardware (above) and part of the experimentation and development process (below).

— Considering the trend of early mortality, Naiad can reduce stressors and prevent premature deaths by potentially saving up to 20 million household fish every year just by considering the numbers in the US and Europe.
— Naiad is an experimental project. In the future the intervention will be scaled to other contexts, including fish farms or breeding sites for endangered species. Indeed, on fish farms, 40 to 90% of fish die each year from eliminable factors. You can only imagine the tons of fish wasted unnecessarily and the consequent economic loss.

Now that we have a tool that allows us to communicate even with fish, are we really ready to hear what they have to say?

Our biggest communication problem is that we don't listen to understand. We listen to answer.