Marc Newson x Swarovski Optik AX Visio Binoculars Can Identify Over 9,000 Birds
You might have noticed during the last few years that many of us picked up a niche interest or two – baking, foraging, playing boardgames, or pickleball – and perhaps most curiously, enjoyed the slow-paced pleasures of birdwatching. If you needed further proof of this mostly silent endeavor’s growing popularity, dedicated search of, and appreciation for our winged friends, look no further than these AI-enhanced Swarovski Optik AX Visio Binoculars designed by Marc Newson.
The Australian-born designer may seem like a surprising figure to associate with birdwatching, but the AI-enhanced binoculars are actually Newson’s second collaboration with Swarovski Optik – the first being the pocket-sized CL Curio binoculars he designed in 2021. While those initial compact binoculars are small, analog, and lightweight, the AI-supported $5,000 AX Visio challenge Newson to focus beyond optics and ergonomics, but also integrate a slew of technology into an easy-to-operate interface that users can quickly acclimate to.
The AX Visio looks naturally the part of a traditional binocular rather than a tech device, with Newson’s associated biomorphic modernist approach toned to a glimmer rather than a glow here. The designer says making the AX Visio an “approachable and usable” object was paramount in its conception.
Looking through the eyepieces, the AX Visio operates like any other modern pair of binoculars – point and zoom – except this AI-enhanced device includes an augmented reality display overlay, allowing users to identify over 9,000 birds and other wildlife without taking their eyes of the subject. “The AX Visio belongs to a different typology,” Newson notes, “And one that is totally new in the combination of optics and technology. Similar to a modern camera, they are optical, electronic and digital!”
Noting the modern day birder doesn’t go out into the field to merely observe, but also to document, the AX Visio’s 10×32 optical zoom is also paired with an integrated camera for recording photos and videos. Captured content is designed to transfer via the SWAROVSKI OPTIK Outdoor App so users can post or share their avian antics with the world, including a Live View function to share with others in realtime.
In regards to the design, Newson cites the greatest challenge around such technology was encapsulating all of the components and optics into a cohesive form.
“The greatest technical challenge in the design process was the size of the binoculars: the optics and technology – which includes AR, Bluetooth, GPS and a camera – must all fit within a tiny, handheld package,” Newson explains. “Like the rest of Swarovski Optik’s offerings, the AX Visio is repairable and so the object must have the capability of being taken apart, a constraint which also informed the design.”
Birding is a pursuit of observation and inquiry, one traditionally served by field guides, websites, and organizations dedicated to identifying winged wildlife. With the advent of AI-assisted systems like those incorporated into the Swarovski Optik AX Visio Binoculars, it’s going to become a whole lot easier to find where the wild things are.