Wildermoth Design


AI - Pods



AI-Pods is a concept design which seeks to aid the homeless community in New Zealand through cheap, intermediary dwellings which utilize automation, and minimalist design to optimize cost and impact.


The process of this design was not without its speed bumps, however I feel as though in its current state it effectively communicates a future ability to help which society will soon have.





For the first time in known history, mankind faces a state of incomprehensible technological growth. This idea was first theorized by I. J. Good (1965), other writers have since developed this idea into the theory of technological singularity,  alluding to Moore’s Law as proof (Kurzweil, 2005; Moore, 1975). This theory has been criticised, sighting physical and economic growth limitations, however incomprehensible paradigm shifts in the future of technology are predicted to negate these barriers (Huebner, 2005; Kurzweil, 2005). While it may be possible to argue that ‘the singularity’ will never occur, it is generally accepted that our technological expansion will continue for the next ten to twenty years. It is a growth which begs the question; Will technology lift the poor and homeless or leave them behind and further establish a gap between those with and without technology?


Ensuring an equal singularity is the responsibility of the government, and to perform this there need be designs which minimize cost and maximise impact. Given the nature of business, very few technology producers operate at non-maximal profit (Tim Varian, 2009). Usually a necessary nonprofit task is the responsibility of the government and without intervention economic disparity is likely to increase. Due to limited government budget, priorities in this project are clear. When investing in non-profit endeavours, all variables are taken as fixed except cost and impact (Roussouw & Maloney, 2012). As such, conceptual design for an “equal singularity” should seek to minimize cost, while maximising impact. This can be achieved through effectively influencing as many people as possible, and utilising automated and intelligent technologies to minimise cost.


New Zealand’s homeless community is in need of help and in danger of singularity induced separation. This is a critical target population for technology based support interventions as currently the homeless expansion is exceeding this by 14%(Statistics NZ, 2013; Statistics 2017). Current homeless shelter designs can be inaccessible due to strict entry criteria and limited facilities. Additionally, they require high amounts of upkeep, while not improving the low quality of life of the occupants. Shelter occupants report anxiety around the safety of their health, wellbeing and possessions (Shay, 2017; Perez, 2014). To resolve many of these issues, the design of homeless shelters needs to be re-examined. Studies have shown government provided permanent residencies can be more cost effective than traditional support methods, such as single night support (Gulliver, 2013).  However, Salvation Army found 87% of their clientele have been homeless for under a year, and in 58% of these cases, less than a month (Salvation Army, 2015). Homelessness is often transient and, as such, creates an opportunity for the development of semi-permanent living facilities.


I propose the construction of cheap, intermediary dwellings which utilize automation, and minimalist design to optimize cost and impact. Current shelter issues revolve around privacy, security, and hygiene, as such my design prioritises singular dwellings and automated cleaning systems (Shay, 2017). I chose to design extremely small dwellings, similar to the Japanese pod hotels which have seen a great deal of success (Schittich, 2010). To maintain hygiene, automated cleaning systems would detect if the room was cleared of people and belongings, and activate rotary brushes loaded with cleaning solvents. Runoff would drain into holes around the bed, dry brushes would deploy and hot air would be fanned through the pod. Design impact will be increased with the inclusion of artificial intelligence, that is equipped with the ability to accurately diagnose health issues in occupants. This will result in occupant privacy and maximised societal impact.


To demonstrate this concept I will be using 360 degree video, and hand sketched animation. In my previous projects I have used animation and illustration to effectively portray ideas, however in order to continue my learning experience I’ve chosen to apply these skills to the emerging field of 360 video. I found this process quite difficult as I couldn’t find many resources on 360 development and animation. As such, I wasn’t able to achieve the amount I wanted during animation stages. The exhibition serves as proof of concept for both my design and hand drawn 360 video, portraying client experience of the design and its inner workings.


Further efforts must be made to combat the current epidemic of homelessness, which will soon be exacerbated by a singularity induced separation in classes. Current sheltering efforts are inefficient and only perpetuate the issue. I propose the production of intermediary pod-style dwellings which maximise impact and minimizing costs, through automation, minimalist design and artificial intelligence. If we are to see improvement in this aspect of society we need to see drastic change, and for this I propose my design as an opportunity to create a brighter future for many.




My concept for an affordable and artificially intelligent rehabilitative homeless shelter is something New Zealand desperately need. It integrates current discoveries in the social work, architecture, psychology and machine learning/artificial intelligence research fields, to achieve maximal benefit for those most in need. This design has been future-proofed, preparing for singularity induced instability due to rapid technological advancements.  as such positions itself on concept rather than implementation.


In order to implement this design, it’s important to identify what is currently possible, and what is available in the market. Research done by NASA (2014) indicates that for a 6-month living space, the occupants need only 2.1 m3 of space, and that smaller volumes are possible without accounting for prolonged confinement and issues of isolation. My project proposes a capsule sized living space to include a king single bed and a few other small components, making a total space of approximately 2.6m3. These extremely small living spaces are similar to those seen in Japanese capsule living, where occupants rooms consist of little more than bedding (New Japan, 2015). Based on the successful implementation of this we can deduct that it is an achievable concept that beneficial for users.  .


When designing dwellings, it is important to consider the physical and psychological impact on the occupant. According to Dr Raj Raghunathan (2016) we need 3 things to be happy -  Freedom, connection and mastery. As such, my project seeks to understand and optimize these aspects for the pod occupants. By providing basic physiological and safety needs, individuals will be able to focus and improve the state of their psychological needs, such as belonging and esteem (Kenrick et. al., 2010). However, this optimization cannot deduct from the occupants decision making capacity as those who perceive having less control are more susceptible to disease, less happy and live shorter lives. (Langer & Rodin, 1976; Rodin & Langer, 1977). Even in populations with reduced control, there is rehabilitative effects restoring in trivial choice, creating therapeutic potential within this design. The concept is designed around these findings, algorithmically deriving an occupant happiness formula, whilst maintaining their autonomy, to restore the greatest social wellbeing.


This concept would utilize machine learning to help understand its occupant. Jerry Kaplan (2016) has stated that the future of AI holds great improvements in artificial recognition systems. This includes quantum leaps in field of detection technology. These pods are designed to operate in a future where sensory systems can recognize the wellbeing of the occupants and correctly diagnose possible health issues. This acts to increase healthcare access for the homeless, removing cost barriers. There is a high prevalence of mental health disorders in homeless communities, with one in four suffering from diseases such as depression and anxiety (National Coalition for the Homeless, 2009). These hidden disorders are poorly managed within the healthcare system, and it is difficult for governments to reach out to those on the streets due to poor response rates. Through detection of mannerisms that allude to certain underlying disorders, an AI will have the ability to identify risk factors and refer individuals onto the necessary help. As stated by Kurzweil (2005),“It is hard to think of any problem that a superintelligence could not either solve or at least help us solve. Disease, poverty, environmental destruction, unnecessary suffering of all kinds”. Given the nature of technological growth, I believe there will come a future where the implementation of this project will be possible.


Capsule living borrows principle from Japanese design and NASA research to ensure comfortable living conditions for those in inadequate situations. By providing basic needs, this project seeks to maximise user happiness through the “mastery, connection and autonomy” theory, allowing occupants to develop themselves further and transition out of homelessness. Use of intelligently equipped sensory systems act as a connector between those in need and those who can provide, to recognise the requirements of individuals who are often overlooked. The fields of architecture, psychology and artificial intelligence are all integrated to provide an opportunity that the homeless need.




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Shay, (2017). Why don’t homeless people use shelters. Retrieved from https://soapboxie.com/social-issues/why_homeless_people_avoid_shelters


Statistics New Zealand, (2017). Populations projections overview. Retrieved from http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/population/estimates_and_projections/projections-overview/subnat-pop-proj.aspx


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