Neuron by Ian Kettle, United Kingdom

2012: City 2046. Art, Life & Ingenuity.


Ian Kettle is a 25 year-old designer who has recently graduated from the Royal College of Art in London and who has previously studied at both Coventry University and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

With a lifelong passion for all things design and transport, Ian’s professional experience includes interning as a designer at Bentley Motors in the UK and Volvo Cars Strategic Design in Sweden, where at the latter Ian was fortunate enough to create both Exterior and Interior proposals for the Volvo Concept Universe show car presented at the 2011 Shanghai Motorshow. Ian has also spent time working as a product designer in Hong Kong and as an airline interior designer in London.

During his studies at the RCA, Ian undertook collaborative projects with Ford Ingeni, Hyundai Europe, Honda Motorcycles, the London Transport Museum and Citroen, winning two of these projects and being shortlisted on several others. Ian also was shortlisted for the Worshipful Company of Coachmakers Bursary, the Helen Hamlyn Award for Inclusive Design and the Berman Autostyle Awards 2010, whilst also recently winning the 2011 Interior Motives Award for ‘Best Conceptual Interior’ at the IAA Frankfurt Motorshow.

Ian is currently working as a freelance designer in London, undertaking both automotive and furniture projects and is looking to broaden his wider design experience.

Design Brief

Neuron: Brain Machine Interface and the Automobile.

An exploration of the consequences of brain machine interface on the most ubiquitous of 20th Century products, the automobile.

Neuron examines how new relationships created by ever developing methods of interaction between man and machine can forge products and experiences more relevant for the current century. Through the intimate relationships created by BMI, vehicles will become an extension of the self, stripping back the wasteful and un-needed and creating agile, soft-treading cars that break free of conventional packaging and adapt to user needs whilst integrating within their environment seamlessly.

How does your design answer the anticipated preferences, lifestyles and transportation needs for the people in your country or region?

NEURON is an imagination of the consequences of implementing brain machine interface (BMI) technology into the automobile. BMI could create intimate relationships between man and machine and allow us to simplify, lighten and reconsider both the construction and usage of the transport devices around us. However, more importantly, Neuron and its BMI does not rely upon physical dexterity to operate the automobile and as such, would allow us to question the packaging and use of materials within the automobile and therefore ultimately, the role of the car within the larger urban context.

I predict that Shanghai in 2046 will have an unrivalled public transport system for the masses, yet public transport will not be able to reach every destination, particularly in the suburbs. This will be where the car flourishes and where my product- a flexible, lightweight and low impact vehicle- fits in and becomes a relevant means of transport.

What makes your design unique?

Brain Machine Interface (BMI) technology has the potential to question the way we all interact with the world and live our lives. Although currently in a research phase, BMI technology is most definitely not science fiction: it is already science fact. Neuron is intended as an exploration and extrapolation of this 21st century technology on one of the most ubiquitous products of the 20th century which still uses physical control input mechanisms more suited to the 19th century: the automobile.

BMI scanners will read all aspects of the users mind and develop much closer relationships between man and machine, creating products and systems that know their users so well, they could almost be considered an extension of the self. If products do start becoming an extension of the self then the need for inbuilt safety systems and redundancies becomes less, allowing objects to lose weight and be stripped back to their core functionality.

When this paradigm is applied to the future automobile, BMI could allow for much lighter cars that use less power to move and be constructed from previously unconsidered materials. All of this because the user is so in tune with their car that they are unlikely to crash and the weight and safety systems we have come to expect have been stripped away leaving an automobile in its purest form.

Neuron therefore is a manifestation of this: a hard rubber ‘vertebrae’ framework with a soft silicone skin stretched over the top, a soft vehicle that could inhabit the urban environment, its lightweight construction and flexible surfaces causing little impact.

Filling this framework is a flexible interior that flows and forms itself around the user’s needs.

In a BMI world, the need for physical interfaces and buttons is removed. If no physical controls are required, no steering wheel and therefore driver’s seat is required. Therefore by extension, no constrained interior architecture is needed and in its place, a freeform interior can exist. Synthetic nylon ‘grass’ strands envelop the users, allowing them to sit wherever they wish and imprinting their forms within the interior space, an electric current passing through the ëgrass’ to temporarily hold its shape for the duration of the journey.

What technologies, innovations, lifestyle needs and concepts have you incorporated into your design? How?

From the start, Neuron has been an exploratory project into a new and exciting technology. The intention was never to create a fully resolved car: the potential of the technology is so vast yet new, that the chance to imagine a new world and new types of products to populate it utilising BMI technology was more interesting.

Neuron is intended to give a dream vision of 2046, one in which the cities we live no longer need to be filled with hard, steel automobiles that create hard, unfriendly bubbles for their occupants. Through BMI, the cars which we use could potentially be low impact in every sense and help create more open and friendly neighbourhoods, cities and potentially even societies.