What is the 4th dimension.. in backpack design?
This week, I'm launching the RiutBag X25. What is it? First and foremost, it's a RiutBag. All RiutBags, at their core, are backwards backpacks. Unlike the conventional backpack, the person behind you cannot get in. All RiutBags only have zips against your back so, just by wearing it, your back protects every entry point. This leaves you to forget about the contents of your backpack. You can travel the world, confident and calm with your RiutBag on, knowing your belongings are safe. The X25 is built this way - backwards - but it has a new trick. It changes shape over time to match what you need to put inside it.
What does it do?
When you receive your RiutBag X25 you will be able to unclip it from compact mode into expanded mode. It can more than double its size, starting at a slight 10 litre capacity - super slim for the thoughtful commuter - yet it turns into a starter level backpacker's companion, the first of its kind with the backwards design. I'll be using the X25 to backpack around Vietnam for 30 days. It'll be hot - I won't have to take artic supplies - and I won't be camping, however, it will give me ample room for a 30 day trip away.
What is the 4th dimension? And why are you talking about it in relation to the design of a backpack?
The 4th dimension is commonly referred to as time. Others - including fans of Liu Cixin - may view the 4th dimension rather differently. But the 4th dimension I'm referring to is, in this case, time.
I build RiutBags. They are physical, functional backpacks that carry your things - laptops, tablets, phones, clothes, stuff - for you securely. Until now, RiutBag users have bought one size. They have to fit their luggage needs around this. They get that one size and then it's either too little, too much space or just perfect depending on what they are doing that day. RiutBags, from 2014 up until now, have stayed calmly in 3 dimensions. If their user's needs change, they look on with interest but have no capability to transform.
The X25 is built differently. Enter time: a common definition of the 4th dimension. As urban dwelling humans, our lives and the demands we place of our backpacks change weekly, monthly and even within one day. We commute with a laptop to work. We return carrying the shopping. Heading back home at the weekend, we buy flights with no check in luggage. Off on holiday the next week. Heading into town with just a wallet and phone. Our needs change daily. I wanted to build a backpack that changes with those needs. And now I have!
4D printing and urban design
I first became aware of the notion of 4D design through MIT's Skylar Tibbits. He asked us to look at the world around us and note how static it is. A road can only hold so many cars, pipes are fixed capacity; if we needed to pump more water through a city's pipes, we would have to rebuild the entire water system from scratch. His solution was not only to build things to respond to demand, but that they respond at a molecular level. That is, particles that can be programmed to respond to their surroundings and self-assemble into larger or different things. Taken to one conclusion, imagine a city that was able to change, itself constantly shifting and remaking itself rather than the build-demolish-build-demolish approach we know so well. It sounds like a wonderful if chaotic sci-fi setting, but like most sci-fi ideas, it it is inspiring to imagine what it could mean and where it might appear in reality.
Here's Skylar Tibbit's TED talk on 4D printing:
Whilst the fibre's of the RiutBag X25's Cordura nylon are not themselves programmed to change according to what you need, just yet, it has made the first step in 4D design. That is, it can fold and unfold, react and transform over time - but it does so under your supervision. It is no longer the RiutBag that stoically decides how much stuff you can fit it in. In this convertible RiutBag, it's up to you what you do and when you do it. And, it means, you only need one backpack to do it all.
Where did the X25 idea come from?
My way of designing is this: I write surveys with the questions I need the answers to. What do you carry? What do you like about commuting? Why do you go on holiday? What do you love most about travel? How smart are the clothes you wear to work? How large is your laptop? I also ask my RiutBag users to give their honest feedback: what was rubbish? What was great?
Once, someone in their feedback survey said: "I know this is impossible, but I wish my RiutBag could be bigger when I need it, and yet somehow smaller when I'm commuting!" I heard similar things from time to time. "It's not quite big enough!" "I couldn't choose between the R10 and the R15 so I got both!" "I wish I could make it smaller when it's empty". These comments over time, as well as my own experience using the RiutBag every day, got me thinking. I wanted to make a much, much larger RiutBag, but because this is an urban backpack, we don't have unlimited storage space as city dwellers, I had to try to make it a RiutBag that was useful for the every day commute too.
I build new RiutBags using this up to the moment data. It's so core to what I do - asking users to help build RiutBags - that I named this company after the notion: Riut stands for Revolution in user thinking.