Gazing at feathered friends

Gazing at feathered friends

A young Hong Kong bird-watcher's invention gives his fellow bird lovers a new tool

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Alan Yip Siu-lun's hi-tech Birdgazer makes bird-watching a whole new experience by letting  bird lovers access online information out in the wild
Alan Yip Siu-lun's hi-tech Birdgazer makes bird-watching a whole new experience by letting bird lovers access online information out in the wild
Photo: HKDI
Bird-watching is becoming popular in Hong Kong, but learning about the species you see hopping, pecking and flitting around the city can be a challenge.

Just ask Alan Yip Siu-lun. Yip, an avid photographer, enjoys taking snapshots of his feathered friends around the city.

"You'd be surprised how many different kinds of birds Hong Kong is home to," says Yip, who recently graduated from the Hong Kong Design Institute.

One time he took a picture of a new bird species and had to spend an hour on the internet researching the bird. To save others time, Yip has designed a new tool. His "Birdgazer" combines a pair of binoculars and a camera with instant access to a wealth of online information.

"It's equipped with a USB device which lets you download weather information for watching birds and the locations where you can spot different birds," he explains.

"After you have taken pictures of the birds, you can look up information online by matching your pictures using face-recognition technology."

It's a perfect tool for nature lovers. "Life in Hong Kong with all the malls makes us forget about nature," Yip says. "I hope my design will help people get closer to nature."

The design was the 22-year-old's final college project, and it caught the attention of his instructor, Daniel Chan Kwong-yiu.

"The idea was creative and practical," says Chan, a senior lecturer at the institute's department of product and interior design. "We train students to 'think and do'."

Yip tested his invention at the Mai Po nature reserve, where three-quarters of local bird species can be found. He received positive feedback from other bird-watchers.

"His design is completely new and there's market potential," Chan says.

Yip was enrolled in a four-year Higher Diploma Programme - Timepiece Design and Branding. "The programme is very practical," he says. "We visited factories and learned about production processes. I realised in design, you need to take into consideration different things, such as structure and costs."

Leslie Lu Lam, head of the department of product and interior design, says: "Many people think designers create something out of nothing. But designers actually have to transform their ideas into workable applications."

Yip's Birdgazer meets those criteria, Lu says. It was selected by the institute as an entry in July for the Red Dot Design Award, an international design competition in Germany, competing with some 3,000 designs from more than 55 countries. Yip won in the Design Concept category.

"It's such an honour," the young inventor says. "I never thought I would win."

Thanks to him, bird-watching may never be the same again.

The Birdgazer and other award-winning products from the Red Dot Design Museum will be on display at Hong Kong Design Institute from November 25 to February 25. For details, visit www.hkdi.edu.hk

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