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7th September 2017

Water: Q&A with Philipp Ronnenberg

In the UK alone we buy 3.2 billion litres of bottled water a year – not good when you think about the environmental impact of all that plastic. And yet, getting your hands on tap water when you’re out and about is not always easy. Enter Dryver, a cloud-shaped philanthropic robot created by German designer Philipp Ronnenberg, on show as part of upcoming LDF exhibition Water at Peckham’s Copeland Gallery.
Imagine the scenario: you’re out on the street feeling a little parched and spot a fluffy cloud gliding along the pavement. You beckon Dryver over and, on hearing your request for water, it allows you to take some from its tap and then asks you to crank its lever to recharge its battery. This provides enough energy to power a condensation unit, allowing another thirsty human the chance of something to sup later on.

Part thought experiment, part engineering challenge, Dryver is a collaboration between Philipp Ronnenberg, whose background is in design and computer science, and architect Ulrike Mallien. Their vision imagines multiple robots moving autonomously across cities delivering water to its inhabitants. By using condensation techniques, Dryver gathers water from the air and delivers it free of charge, ridding us from the need for so much plastic.
A graduate of the RCA’s esteemed Design Interactions programme, Philipp’s interests are in democratising technology, open-source phenomena, making-hacking culture and digital protest. His practice centres on researching and prototyping concepts for future interactive systems, applications and products, often in alternative realities or on the intersection between reality and speculation. Setting up his own studio – Ronnenberg Creative Technology – last year, Philipp’s brain-boggling inventions have included The Drone Aviary (which you might have seen at LDF 2015) and a GPS-like navigational system that doesn't rely on Government-owned satellites.

Ahead of Water, which opens at the Copeland Gallery on 19 September, we asked Philipp for an introduction to his water-distributing creation.
What was your thinking behind this project?

We transport water in bottles from one country to another with huge environmental costs while having more than enough drinking water resources in our own country. In cities, we are only a few metres away from tap water, but as there aren’t many public water fountains in the cities here in Northern Europe, we buy water bottles ‘to go’. We wanted to think about how fresh drinking water could be provided on the go in the city centre as an alternative to buying water bottles.
Philipp Ronnenberg at work in his studio.
How does Dryver's condensation process work?

Condensation is the process by which water vapour in the air is changed into liquid. It is crucial to the water cycle because it is responsible for the formation of clouds. These clouds may produce precipitation, which is the primary route for water to return to the Earth's surface within the water cycle. You don't have to look at something as far away as a cloud to notice condensation, though. Condensation is responsible for ground-level fog, for your glasses fogging up when you go from a cold room to the outdoors on a hot, humid day, for the water that drips off the outside of your glass of iced tea, and for the water on the inside of the windows in your home on a cold day.
The phase change that accompanies water as it moves between its vapour, liquid, and solid form is exhibited in the arrangement of water molecules. Water molecules in the vapour form are arranged more randomly than in liquid water. As condensation occurs and liquid water forms from the vapour, the water molecules become organised in a less random structure, which is less random than in vapour, and heat is released into the atmosphere as a result. For getting drinking water, you can collect the condensed water, filter and mineralise it – which is what Dryver does.
What inspired Dryver’s form?

Dryver is a moving cloud that will interact with people by talking to them. Clouds are autonomous and not owned by anyone. They come and go, providing rain to everyone, everywhere.
Ronnenberg's Open Positioning System project, designed to be free from governmental or company control.
How do you think providing Dryver will change urban environments and human behaviours?

With Dryver you have to bring your own glass or refill bottle (or just use your hands) to get a refreshment. No bottle will need to be recycled or thrown away, leaving no environmental footprint.
Why do you think it’s important that water is free?

The water is not free, but you are not paying with money. You pay the robot by giving him new energy by rotating the crank. It’s a sustaining cycle of giving and receiving.
Visit Water at Copeland Gallery from 19 – 24 September. For more info visit www.waterexhibition.co.uk

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