Swarovski Optik manufactures binoculars, rifle scopes and thermal imaging scopes. To produce their first pair of "smart binoculars," the company tapped Marc Newson, who had previously designed their (non-"smart") CL Curio pocket-sized binoculars.
The resultant AX Visio smart binoculars can identify birds and mammals, take photographs and video, provide compass functionality and share locations with others. Here's a rundown of how to use the functions:
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"It's rare for a designer to work on something that is the first product within a category, which is naturally exciting and suffice to say, challenging," says Newson. "Binoculars are traditionally solely analogue objects, which, while compelling and 'future proof', are essentially bi-dimensional. The AX Visio belongs to a different typology, and one that is totally new in the combination of optics and technology. Similar to a modern camera, they are optical, electronic and digital."
"I find binoculars generally to be awe inspiring, wonderful and fundamentally essential objects. The fact that they allow one to see things invisible to the naked eye is, in my opinion, akin to magic. The new technology in the AX Visio provides an educational and recording functionality to the product, whilst maintaining the analogue optics at the centre of the product. This fusion is extremely exciting to me."
"I sought to create a pair of binoculars that are intuitive, modern and crucially, comfortable in the hand and on the eye…. It was also important to me to try to imbue the design with a kind of personality- I wanted them to feel approachable and usable. The inclination when designing high-performance items tends for them to be purposefully complex, and I was hoping to create something that was the opposite- intuitive and inviting."
"The greatest technical challenge in the design process was the size of the binoculars: the optics and technology- which includes AR, Bluetooth, GPS and a camera- must all fit within a tiny, handheld package. Like the rest of Swarovski Optik's offerings, the AX Visio is repairable and so the object must have the capability of being taken apart, a constraint which also informed the design."
"The technical requirements of the product inform the design, as is the case with almost all of my designs. Here, the parameters were very tight in terms of where I could eek out space to play with, and the optics and various complex technologies are all contained within this incredibly economical handheld object."
"Crucially, the binoculars are all about learning and experiencing nature, and equally suitable for a relative novice like myself or a more experienced individual. The integrated display means that you don't have to look away from what you're observing to check a book or phone, and in the process potentially lose sight of the subject. The excitement of discovery and immediacy of recognition possible through the AX Visio technology is thrilling."
The AX Visio runs €4,600 (USD $4,984).
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