The chair that was designed by AI

It turns out that some of AI's best solutions are inspired by nature.

The emergence of artificial intelligence holds many possibilities for the business of product design as evidenced by the Elbo chair. It was produced by Autodesk engineers Brittany Presten and Arthur Harsuvanakit, but their role was merely instructive as the Elbo’s design was brought to fruition by Dreamcatcher software.

The Autodesk company recently developed "generative" software that allows designers to set objectives for the computer to work with in order to produce its own solutions. Presten and Harsuvanakit told Dreamcatcher what they required of the final product and then set the software in motion.

The rules programmed by the human engineers stipulated that the chair’s seat had to be 18 inches (46 cm) above ground level and it had to be able to support 300 pounds (136 kg) while using as little material as possible for cost-effectiveness.

Dreamcatcher started pumping out a number of chair designs and produced more accurate virtual solutions as it went along, improving each version and carving away as much unnecessary material as possible.

The final product was fashioned out of walnut wood – a material which Dreamcatcher was unable to fathom virtually, so the designers told the software that the material would be compressed nylon. The resulting structure of the Elbo chair bears striking resemblance to animal bones and skeletal joints. It is uncanny that Dreamcatcher’s algorithmic improvements led to a design conclusion that is similar to nature’s own weight-carrying solutions.