Austin Kahn

"Design a consumer level binocular and a carrying case"

Tasked to design binoculars, I first had to learn as much as I could about them 

After conducting preliminary research online, I visited several camera and outdoors stores to learn from current users of binoculars

The markets


Diving into a market of nearly 45 million bird watchers in America alone, I began with a review of online literature, gathering information from websites, research papers, forums, etc

After having a general understanding of the market, users, and uses of birding binoculars, I interviewed several bird watchers and binocular experts

My research lead me to conclude that Birders are generally resistant to change, brand loyal, and prioritize the quality of the lenses

The Opportunities

After speaking with several bird watchers and binocular experts, I narrowed down my results to two opportunities for improvement/innovation in the design of birdwatching binoculars



During a birder's outing, it is likely that they will take notes on what they observe. These notes include birds to add to their birds-seen list, features of a bird they cannot immediately identify, and anything else they think/observe. 


Tracking and Refocusing

When a bird watcher is locked in on a subject and the subject (bird) moves, because of the high magnification, the bird watcher is forced to remove the binoculars from their eyes, relocate the subject, raise their binoculars back to their eyes and refocus on the subject.

This is a problem because the bird watcher needs as much time looking at their subject as possible in order not to miss a detail/identifier. Also, quick changes in magnification and focusing may strain the eyes of the bird watcher

The Features 

My goal for the ideation stage was to design and develop a feature(s) that solved one of the problems I discovered during my research


Main Feature-Concepts

As a result of my ideation process, I conceptualized three features that would solve problems of birders


Pop-In Lens

A slide-in or fold down (internal) lens that would allow the user to view what they see at high magnification, also a lower magnification. The 'zoomed out' smaller lens eliminates the need to continuously remove and refocus the binoculars when a bird moves or a wider view is needed


Scale/Distance Reader

A method of determining the size of the subject, as well as the distance of the subject in focus. Based on the turn (angle) of the focus knob, the distance of the object in focus can be determined, and with that, a scale/figure can be displayed in the view of the user to compare the subject to


Voice Recorder

An internal microphone that stores the user's (audio) notes. This prevents the need for the user to take breaks to write down notes, or even worse, to try to remember each observation and question they have, which ends up being forgotten most of the time

Considering what I learned from my research and the ideas I've explored, I defined my product proposal:

Binoculars that allow the user to record their voice via an internal microphone


The Form

With the internal electronics of the audio recorder in mind, I aimed to design a more unified binocular form, compared to the separate looking tubes and bridges of the Nikon Monarch 5 (pictured below)


Having decided on a form, I designed the recording interface to resemmble a commonplace microphone



IMG_3501 (1).jpg

The Prototypes

Using foam and wood, I explored my concept as a physical form. Foam was an appropriate material of choice for my first few prototypes because of how easy it is to edit curves and dimensions. Once I had the proper shape worked out, I 3D printed it for my final prototype





The Use Process


1. Turn on the voice recording system by saying a phrase containing 'Monarch' (ex: "Hello Monarch")


2. Speak what you would like to be recorded as you are using the binoculars


3. When recording, a faint green light will illuminate in the user's field of view (inside of the tubes) to ensure the user that their comments are being recorded


4. To turn off the voice recording system, speak into the microphone using the term "Monarch" (ex: "Goodbye Monarch")


5. Plug the binocular-system into your computer and a software will translate the audio files into text and store them by date, time, etc


The Case Concepts

After discussing with and observation bird watchers, I discovered that when the binoculars are at rest (hanging by neck strap/harness), the lenses had no protection. My solution:

A carrying case that doubles as a temporary 'cup holder' to keep the binoculars protected while at rest