Wrkshp: Mobility Insights for Barbie

    Who would have expected some refreshingly new mobility visions from the famous Barbie doll? Our workshop with students of the University of the Arts, Bremen, held by Niklas Roy provided some quite fantastical results.

    $ [2016-08-03] - Status: finished

    New Ways from A to B for Barbie & Ken

    Barbie and Ken definitely need a mobility upgrade. The power couple got rid of their oh-so-trendy 1980s convertible and are now looking for their future means of transport. To make matters worse for Barbie, her high-heels have wrecked her feet permanently so she can’t walk long distances anymore. Technology is racing ahead and Barbie shouldn’t lag behind!

    After the success of our first Speculative Future Mobility workshop at the University of Applied Sciences in Schwäbisch Gmünd and the follow-ups, we wanted to broaden the design scope and venture into free-flowing visionary art.

    In order to enhance Barbie’s personal mobility we sponsored a multi-disciplinary workshop to let students of various fields incubate innovative ideas and make actual prototypes. The workshop took place on the campus of the University of the Arts Bremen (HfK) held by Niklas Roy, nine students developed and delivered prototypes using the iconic doll over the course of six days in early May.

    Bring Barbie from A to B

    One week of intense prototyping and tinkering.

    Our recipe for great mobility workshops consists of three ingredients:

    1. our approach to mobility
    2. the background of the university and creativity of the students
    3. leading thoughts with both theoretical & practical help from an external lecturer

    With a little lecturing and tutoring we are impressed again and again by how simple yet genuinely new perspectives on mobility can be created. Moreover this serves as a great opportunity to connect with universities and spark mobility thoughts in the minds of students studying many different majors.

    Together with the greatly resourceful Berlin-based artist and tinkerer Niklas Roy we developed a brief at the moovel lab and documented the whole six days. At the end of the six days we all came together for the students’ final presentations that expanded into an exhibition at GALERIE FLUT with an awesome reception party on 4th of May.

    Prototyping at it's finest

    From sketch to scratch to prototype.

    The Brief

    The goal of the workshop was to find new clever ways of mobility for Barbie and her lover Ken, taking account of her aforementioned impediments. The students were to explore and construct innovative and visionary (but possibly also just strange and scary) mobility solutions for the couple. There were no limitations regarding the technologies that they could use. Everything was allowed.

    From Wrecking Ball to Automatic Twerking Pants – the Outcome

    After much tinkering, soldering, and even sawing Barbie into various body parts, the grandiose prototypes came into existence. Read for yourselves about the students’ inventive concepts:

    Connected Cloud

    When Barbie seeks ultimate freedom on a trip, she chooses the “Connected Cloud”. Inspired by the Dragonball manga series’ “Flying Nimbus” cloud, Guida Ribeiro created a cloud-based public transport service. Using fluffy matter Barbie hovers above our heads and straight into our hearts.

    Connected Cloud

    By Guida Ribeiro
    Photo by: Jakob Weber


    Completely ignoring all the boundaries of twenty-first century physics, Lukas Seiler and Maximilian Kiepe created a working prototype of a teleporter. Using this nifty device, Barbie travels instantly to a galaxy far, far away – round-trip included. All happens at the push of a button. Of course, we can only witness Barbie’s disappearance and reappearance on planet Earth and can't follow up on how she physically reassembles and disassembles at a remote location. However, we are willing to believe!


    By Lukas Seiler & Maximilian Kiepe
    Photo by: Jakob Weber

    Rainbow-Chasing Unicorn

    What could be more fulfilling than riding on the back of a “Rainbow-Chasing Unicorn”? That is exactly why Maria Eugenia Araujo and Marianna Nikulshina made this dream a reality – at least for Barbie’s friend Christie, who was the test subject demonstrating this magical concept.

    Rainbow-Chasing Unicorn

    By Maria Eugenia Araujo & Marianna Nikulshina
    Photo by: Jakob Weber

    Moonshot Rocket

    With all these exciting means of transportation available it is sometimes hard for Barbie to see the big picture! So it is exactly the right moment for her to take a ballistic trip with her gravity-defying “Moonshot Rocket”. Created by Nourelhoda Mohamed, the rocket scientist in our workshop, this explosive vehicle gives Barbie a totally new perspective and lets her contemplate mobility matters in Zero-G.

    Moonshot Rocket

    Nourelhoda Mohamed
    Photo by: Raphael Reimann

    Wrecking Ball Public Pendulum

    Based on a prior mobility study (Cyrus 2013), the “Wrecking Ball Public Pendulum” strives to set foot in the mass transportation market. A missed opportunity! Commuters enter the wrecking ball at one of several hop-on / hop-off stations. From there they can freely swing to their desired destination. According to inventors Annika Engelhardt and Chang Park, the “Wrecking Ball Public Pendulum” is best enjoyed in revealing clothing since the inevitable airstream causes a nice tickling sensation on the skin.

    Wrecking Ball Public Pendulum

    By: Chang Park & Annika Engelhardt
    Photo by: Jakob Weber

    Foldable Ornithopter Backpack

    Sometimes Barbie just wants to feel free like a bird. Those are the moments when she buckles into Lara Feldermann’s invention, the convenient “Foldable Ornithopter Backpack”. In everyday life this backpack appears to be just a regular rucksack. However on the pull of a string two large wings unfold and Barbie is ready to fly away!

    Foldable Ornithopter Backpack

    By Lara Feldermann
    Photo by: Jakob Weber


    When it is sunny and Barbie and Ken want to go for a joyride, the “Roomba-Rover” is their preferred vehicle of choice. The fact that this self-driving car lacks orientation and navigation may seem troublesome at first. However, these features turn every trip into a surprising journey to a completely random destination! The “Roomba-Rover” embodies pure mobility pleasure and nothing less, claims Niklas Roy, its inventor.


    By Niklas Roy Photo
    by: Jakob Weber

    Fail: Automatic Twerking Pants

    Can intense physical activity such as shaking the booty generate sufficient power to move Barbie (or Ken) from A to B? Maximilian Kiepe and Lukas Seiler investigated this vibrating topic by building several versions of their “Automatic Twerking Pants”. These wearable applications provoked great joy amongst the research team. Alas, the result was that it doesn't twerk at all!

    Fail Compilation

    Automatic Twerking Pants by Maximilian Kiepe & Lukas Seiler

    Great Success at the Maker Faire Hannover!

    After our tweets about the results of the workshop the Maker Faire Hannover quickly noticed and asked whether the prototypes could be exhibited at the huge DIY show at the end of May.

    With 16,000 visitors this year and more than 800 makers at this bustling venue the students were certainly excited to display their creations with our help. The Maker Faire took place in Hannover for the fourth time. As the students visited the fair, Philip Steffan (who invited us) put it quite nicely by saying: "Your project is the essence of what Maker Faire is about"


    From excursions into zero gravity, hovering on clouds, foldable wings and teleportation to completely random destinations, we were surprised, amazed and stunned by the highly inventive visions the nine students presented. After six long days of intense experimentation, the results were fantastic! We have to thank Niklas Roy and the students for all the effort they put in. It was definitely worth it!

    Once again we are grateful for the different perspectives of the participants, coming from various differing environments, who enriched this workshop for us and gave us plenty of new ideas for possible further exploration. We will continue our workshop series soon, so stay in touch!


    (credits: Lara Feldermann; Marianna Nikulshina; Annika Engelhardt; Maximilian Kiepe; Maria Eugenia Araujo; Lukas Seiler; Guida Ribeiro; Chang Park; Nourelhoda Mohamed)


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