Design / Technology
Can a digital asset help us to create an emotional bond with a physical piece of furniture?
Together with partners, SPACE10 uses nextgen NFTs aiming to encourage circularity within the design industry through blockchain technology.
21 Dec 2022

In a new concept, called Carbon Banks, the Copenhagen-based design and research lab has teamed up with Wint Design Lab, Zünc, and Bakken & Bæck to ask: What if digital assets could transform how we see and care for the physical world?

The project — still a prototype — imagines how a physical, wooden chair, in the mixed realities we lived in, could be connected to a generative digital asset on the blockchain to create an emotional bond in order for the user to keep, repair, trade, and recycle our furniture. The digital asset would take the shape of a personalised tree, beginning as a seedling and developing over time in parallel to the furniture’s lifespan. The longer the chair is kept and cared for, the wilder, lusher, and more unique the tree would grow. In a visual part of the project, research-led creative studio Zünc explores different plant species that could grow out from a familiar base with uniquely twisting branches and different styles of leaves. The tree would help to visualise and incentivise acts of guardianship, with maintenance rewarded with new growth and flourishes. Ryan Sherman, who works as Creative & Strategy at SPACE 10, explains that the alarming situation for the climate demands considering all the tools and technologies at our disposal to move towards more sustainable systems, products, services, and behaviours.

— The Carbon Bank chairs are made out of wood, acting as a ’carbon sink’, and storing carbon for as long as the furniture is in use, he explains. For this project, we look at how emerging concepts of phygital ownership, scarcity and amplification could be used towards sustainable furniture consumption. Can linking the possessions in our homes with those in our increasingly mixed realities provide us with opportunities to relate differently to our material world?

The concept uses advanced technology to partner each piece of furniture with a 3D digital tree that grows in tandem with the age of the material product. Permanently bound together via the blockchain, the tree acts as a digital record of the furniture’s journey. The concept, the project proposes, starts with the user purchasing a new piece of furniture from the furniture range and, when scanning, a virtual tree is minted as a seedling and rooted to the physical object. The longevity of the furniture is then mirrored in the evolving asset and if furniture is sold or traded, the asset is transferred to the next user where it continues to grow. The digital tree can be ported across virtual worlds as a new form of digital expression and the age of the furniture becomes an inherited sentimental asset, similar to a collectible, real world item.

Carbon Banks builds on the idea that we take better care of the things we feel a strong sense of stewardship towards, providing a digital testament to how we treat our physical furniture as well as responsive and personalised visualisation of specific actions. We can expect a future where more and more of our time is spent moving between physical and digital realities. Then, Carbon Banks re-imagines how digital life can directly impact our relationship with our possessions and expand the influence of our physical belongings.

— Amidst the debate on what NFTs offer, it is easy to forget that they are still an evolving technology, says Robin Hoske, co-founder, WINT Design Lab. With Carbon Banks we saw the potential to do more — not only to connect or mirror the physical and the digital, but to add an experiential value. We imagine a new generation of NFTs called digital amplifiers. Digital amplifiers are linked to physical objects via the blockchain and augment the items they are attached to, highlighting key characteristics and impacting and enhancing the way we perceive these goods.

The project also includes an in-depth white paper created in collaboration with Bakken & Bæck.