Feathers on This Jacket Mimic a Bird's Navigational System

Unlike migrating birds, humans don't use magnetic sensing to navigate through the world. Instead, people rely on the sun (or, more commonly, their maps app) to get their bearings. Designer Birce Özkan wants to change that. The New York-based artist created an Augmented Jacket, a garment that features feathers that move up and down when the wearer is headed north.

Through technology, the Augmented Jacket mimics birds' innate sense of direction. The feathers on the coat's collar and shoulders are attached to a servo motor. When an electronic compass—also inside the apparel—detects that the coat is heading north, those motors begin to spin, allowing the feathers to twitch. The effect is similar to a bird flapping its wings.

Why north? "During my research, I found that when humans lose their way, the easiest way to reorient themselves is to face north and visualize the map," Özkan told Dezeen. Still, it isn't entirely practical. Knowing that you're going north is only helpful if you can also pinpoint the other three directions and the points in between.

But Özkan created the jacket to be more than a functional tech garment. It's also a work of art with a message. "The piece serves as a metaphor, which highlights a method of appropriation where the human nature is enhanced through the process of bio-mimicry," Özkan says.

Birce Özkan on Vimeo

According to FastCoDesign, Özkan also created a matching skirt with the same embedded tech as the jacket. Eventually, she plans to update both pieces so that they are integrated with Google Maps and can act as turn signals. To learn more about the project and the designer's other work, visit Özkan's website and check out the video above.

Images via Vimeo

[h/t FastCoDesign]

Tessa Angus
Surprising Sculptures Made From Fallen Feathers
Kate MccGwire, Orchis, 2012
Kate MccGwire, Orchis, 2012
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire is a British sculptor with an unusual medium: feathers. Her surreal, undulating works often take the form of installations—the feathers spilling out of a drain, a stove, a crypt wall—or stand-alone sculptures in which antique bell jars, cabinets, or trunks contain otherworldly shapes.

MccGwire developed her obsession with feathers after moving to a studio barge on the Thames in 2006, as she explains in a video from recently spotlighted by Boing Boing. The barge was near a large shed full of feral pigeons, whose feathers she would spot on her way to work. "I started picking them up and laying them out, collecting them," she remembers. "And after about two weeks I had like 300 feathers." At the time, concerns about bird flu were rife, which made the feathers seem "dangerous as well as beautiful."

When not supplied by her own next-door menagerie, the feathers for her artwork come from a network of racing pigeon societies all over the UK, who send her envelopes full every time the birds molt. Farmers and gamekeepers also send her fallen feathers from birds such as magpies, pheasants, and roosters.

The cultural associations around birds are a big part of what inspires MccGwire. “The dove is the symbol of peace, purity, and fertility," she told ArtNews in 2013, "but it’s exactly the same species as a pigeon—which everyone regards as being dirty, foul, a pest.”

The same duality is present in her own work, which she frequently shares on her Instagram account. “I want to seduce by what I do—but revolt in equal measure. It’s really important to me that you’ve got that rejection of things you think you know for sure.”

You can see some pictures of MccGwire's work, and watch the video from, below.

Kate MccGwire's installation "Evacuate"
Evacuate, 2010
J Wilde

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Convolous"
Convolous, 2015
JP Bland

Kate MccGwire's installation "Gyre"
Gyre, 2012
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Gag"
Gag, 2009
JP Bland

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Writhe"
Writhe, 2010
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Quell"
Quell, 2011
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Taunt"
Taunt, 2012
Tessa Angus
Meet the Terror Bird, a Bone-Smashing Beast That Once Roamed the Americas

Prehistoric Earth was filled with all kinds of impressively scary animals. But one category of avians, an extinct clade called Phorusrhacidae, was so fierce that they're today nicknamed "terror birds," as the latest video from PBS Eons explains below.

Phorusrhacidae was a group of large, flightless, carnivorous birds that roamed Earth for about 60 million years, beginning in the early Cretaceous Period. Over time, they evolved into 25 different species. Some of these birds were likely scavengers, but others lusted for blood, judging from fossils that revealed their physical makeup.

Sharp beaks allowed some terror birds to rip their prey's flesh straight from the bone, and their curved claws were ideal for stabbing. Even their skeletons were natural weapons, with strong legs powerful enough to crack bone. If these features weren't terrifying enough, experts think that the birds may have also subdued their still-living meals by lifting them up and repetitively smashing them against the ground.

One of the largest species among these birds was Titanis walleri, which once roamed the coastal plains of what's today Texas and Florida after crossing a land bridge from South America around 5 million years ago. Learn how it came to America, and why it went extinct, by watching the video below.


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