This IKEA-Backed AI Tool Maps Sustainable Materials Near You

Often, the items consumers deem most luxurious in the world are those of scarcity. But what’s difficult for one person to source may be bountiful for another—especially when it comes to waste materials, which are frequently an expensive nuisance in poor countries. To address this disconnect, a team of designers at Space10, a research and design lab backed by IKEA, recently published a map that uses artificial intelligence (AI) tool ChatGPT to pinpoint abundant sources of waste materials around the globe.

Once the materials report was generated, the designers of the project, dubbed Products of Place, then directed the AI tool to dream up dishware to make the most of the stocks. “Every culture developed their own kind of plates, and they initially emerged from a set of constraints and materials availability, which is the whole focus of the project,” Matteo Loglio, founder and design director of Oio, one of two involved design firms, tells AD PRO. “But we kind of lost [that regional ingenuity] with globalization…So, we were like, how can we bring it back?”

ChatGPT generated a map of material waste around the globe, then produced renderings of plates made from the abundant materials.

Image courtesy SPACE10

Produced with a materials palette ranging from shredded paper and coconut husks to less obvious materials like discarded crayons, tennis balls, and salmon bones, the resulting speculative dish designs are thought-provoking originals—some ultracool, others straight-up strange.

“In order to decide which concepts would be viable, you would need to have some understanding of the local materials, which ones could actually be safe for use or be potentially viable material choices,” says Alexandra Zenner, who does creative & planning work for Space10. She adds that ChatGPT “challenged our preconceived ideas of what a viable material was” by churning out many material suggestions that aren’t found in nature, meaning the substances would “need to go through immense testing.”

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