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Ara Biome

For their customizable modular phone, Project Ara, Google asked Midnight Commercial to make “the module no one else would dream of making.” The response: let’s create a microscopic aquarium.

Encased in a biome, microscopic organisms would live in a self-sustaining environment. Specialized lenses would capture the activities of the world in real-time.

Unfortunately, Project Ara was suspended in 2016 before the module was completed.

Selected Press
Venture Beat,  Gizmodo,  Fortune

UX & Product Design
Leading the UX & Product Design, Bailey worked closely with an internal team of industrial designers, programmers, and scientists to concept the app’s function and features. 

Ideas ranged from a “while you were away” timelapse video that would recap each hour in the biome, a microphone that could “speak into” the habitat, the ability to track and name the biome’s creatures, and digitially overlay images over the environment’s background.  

There were three main technical questions under consideration : How to crete a self-sustaining biome? What kinds of organisms could habit it? What lens can both capture and transfer microscopic visuals in real time?

Experimentation started with algea and tardigrades (also known as “water bears”). Tardigrades are extremophiles, meaning they have adapted ways to survive in extreme environments—including outer space. 

Microscopic Lens & Light Test

Mock-up of Biome Module

Further Considerations 
While developing the module, the team had to consider deeper, more existential questions about the nature of the project.

Further questions arose: What does it mean to have an aquarium on your phone? Would it change your relationship to the device? Are there underlying ethical issues?

Midnight Commercial

David Nunez, Partner & Project Lead
Bailey Meadows, UX & Product Design
Jesse Gonzales, Electronics & Digital Fabrication
Sam Posner, Developer
Jennifer Bernstein, Project Management

Noah Freehan, Electrical Engineering
Matt Borgatti, Industrial Design

Bailey Meadows 2023 — New York, NY