Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sunbathe in Style...and Electricity

    Normally, when creative inventors work their magic, they seem to think of something the world (or a specific population) needs and proceed to create something that will meet that need. What intrigued me about Andrew Schneider's creative genius, however, is that it started as nothing more than a joke. In a grad school course in New York University's Telecommunications Program, Schneider had the assignment of designing some sort of sustainable product. Schneider was idea-less, and casually joked to his friend that he should invent a pair of swim trucks to keep his beer cold. Though that didn't become his focus (it would later), a new idea sparked from the joke:


    I bet our one-piece wearing grandparents never thought they'd see the day. Hell, I never thought I'd see the day. But Schneider did, and his electric bad boys are selling for between 200 and 500 bucks a pop. The solar powered bikini is swimwear for women that has a 5 volt USB built into it, allowing women to charge their electric gadgets while sunbathing. Each bikini takes about 80 hours for Schneider and his team to make, but he has already filled thousands of orders in just New York City. 


  Each solar bikini is custom-made out of photovoltaic film strips, sown together with conductive thread. Stylistically, the bikini sports the "medieval" style while still covering a minimal amount of skin, making it marketable to chic women who want to show off their bodies. 
   Reviews that I have found on the iKini (as it is now called) have been mixed. Some seem to think it practical, others think it's a waste of money. At first, I was keen to think it was a rather pointless invention, but then I saw an article titled, "The Solar-Powered Bikini: Because Why Not?", and I realized creative inventions do not always have to solve the world's problems. Sometimes creative things just happen because they can. 


  1. Although this creation is certainly a novel idea, I do not know if the problem it is addressing and solving is serious enough to be considered a true problem, more so an inconvenience perhaps? When taking into consideration the definition provided to us "Appropriate" and "Novel" I do not know if this completely fits into what psychologists who study creativity would consider creative. However, one could argue that the problem of needing to charge your ipod or phone during a day trip to the beach where an outlet is unavailable is a huge problem, especially to music lovers or people who feel that their phone is another apendage. On the other hand, intellectuals in this field who study creative people such as Einstein or Picasso may question if this is legitimate creativity due to the fact that the problem it addresses seems to be more of an inconvenience. The controversy here is to determine what is meant by a "problem to be addressed and solved" when looking into the "Appropriate" aspect of creativity. Does the problem and solution need to be something as drastic as solving a medical mystery or ending world hunger? Or is something as simply as finding a way to charge your electronics at the beach enough of a "problem" to fulfill the "Appropriate" category within the definition of creativity?

  2. This strikes me as a wonderful example of creativity. At heart, the solar bikini is a re-imaging of a past product. This re-imaging is a perfect example of analogizing out of the box. Bikini is to sun tan is to solar power is to charging batteries. The string of analogical reasoning is elegant, counter-intuitive and very much so creative. In fact, this seems to be the exact thing that Psychologists are interested in studying. Being appropriate is a philosophically sloppy term at best. I have the impression that appropriate is more in place to weed out dysfunctional ideas. For example, if the solar bikini was made as a direct power source (not a battery mind you) for deep cave spelunking head lamps, that would be inappropriate. The lack of sun light to charge a lamp needed for light borders on pathological in design. This application involves novel analogies while benefiting the product user in a very real and practical way. The Ikini is so simple that it seems anyone could have created it. I find when I come across a creative solution/product that is so simple and elegant as to be banal, that is when I should show some of my greatest respect. Thank you for the post Martha. I really enjoyed hearing about this creative and appropriate idea!

  3. As I was reading about the solar panel bikini I couldn't help but consider the part that practicality might play in creativity. This product is certainly novel, and it does address a problem (albeit a small one), but does it do so conveniently enough to be worth it? I know that practicality isn't included in our class definition of creativity, but I don't think that something can effectively solve a problem if the solution isn't practical enough for most of the population. For instance, how many people can actually afford to buy a swimsuit made entirely of solar paneling? And how would you swim? Would it damage the solar panels? Once the functionality of the original item is jeopardized it just doesn't feel like a very creative solution. I just don't see the "cons" of this product outweighing the benefits. Yes, solar energy is an interesting way to power up personal electronics at the beach, but is a swimsuit really the best place to put them?


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