To Find A Mocking Bird

Urban Bird Watching Product Design for Leica Sport Optics

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Bird observation, as one of the most popular nature exploration activities in Europe, has a large user group, a profitable market and contributes positively to the environment. Optical devices are almost a necessity for bird observation since they provide a magnified view with vivid details at a far distance.
Leica, a premium product manufacturer in the camera and sport optics industry, has a current user base of professional and elderly customers in bird observation. As the number of novice observers that start bird watching in urban environments keeps on increasing, the needs from this user group are becoming less neglectable. Therefore, designing for novice bird watchers could potentially help Leica open a new market and create more business value.

The design is defined under an urban context, which is a starter-friendly environment since birds are more active in cities. One of the biggest difficulties for novice bird watchers is ‘finding birds’, including catching sight of birds in the environment, and finding them again later in a magnified optical view. This can be a process that is both tricky and time-consuming for beginners. Some extra digital assistance “just like a slight nudge” is appreciated during the process.

To improve the experience for this process, multiple design ideas were generated and different adaptable technologies were mapped out in a morphological chart. The selected concept is an innovative bird watching optical device with a built-in 3D sound localisation system that is able to generate 3D directional vectors of the detected birdsong source, convert it into 2D information, then project a directional hint of birds’ position on the optical view. To test the feasibility of the selected technology, a functional mockup was built, which is composed with a digital camera, a microphone array, a computer processing power and a camera view finder display. At the end of the project, the mockup is able to perform sound source localisation of multiple sound sources within a distance range of 0-8m.

The mockup build in the project could serve as a starting point for Leica’s future exploration under the sound-related innovation area. Though currently the relevant technology is not mature and cost-efficient enough to bring much value to the viability aspect, a technology roadmap was proposed to the company suggesting a step-by-step further development process. With technical improvements from experts and engineers, an optimized setup with a better performance and a lower cost can be achieved within a more compact package. a sporce opcs