Viola Huang
Steven Mao
Wei Heng Hsu
Project brief
Beefriends is a native bee support program that creates a sound-driven AR experience for hikers to learn about native bees and the surroundings during urban green exploration.
At Beefriends native plants garden, people can use App to learn about the relationship between native bees and local plants. The plants in the garden were curated to serve as a small habitat for local native bees.
Beefriends also builds strategic partnerships with small local businesses to create products or events that inspire people to support native bees.
What is native bee? Why native bees important?

Native bees are just that, native. These are bee populations that have always lived in North America, and like any insect or animal, they have certain places where they can be found.

There are nearly 20,000 known bee species in the world, and 4,000 of them are native to the United States.

Native bees pollinate native plants like cherries, blueberries and cranberries, and were here long before European honeybees were brought to the country by settlers. They are estimated to pollinate 80 percent of flowering plants around the world. And very few of them sting.
An interview with James Carey inspired us to discover urban wilderness

"By documenting bees in the field, people who hike on the trail mostly never see them(ground bee), and know little about native bees. After knowing that they don't sting, those kids especially are willing to take very close look on them. They will get super excited."

James shared with us a lot of his experience working in the field, documenting the bees and encountering people who know little about native bees. We have learnt a lot from him and different bee experts. Most importantly, this conversation inspires us to think about the places where has the invisible interaction between human and bees.
Discover native bees through AR at hiking trails where the invisible interaction happens between human and bees.

01 Hiking with "beefriends"

Before user start hiking, Beefriends app enables both solo hiker and small hiking group to pre-download the map, explore the urban green. 

02 GPS enabled sound experience

During the hiking, user can put on headphone to explore the park, it will be triggering sounds that are carefully crafted to harmonize with life of native bees.

03 Invisible visible “AR”

With AR, bring the hidden virtual bee life into reality.
User can scan the traces left by bees to see what were the natives bees doing.
Ground nesting bee
AR function brings the invisible visible. Users can follow the ground nest bee to explore the interior structure of a ground bee nest.
Leaf cutting bee
See how leaf-cutting bees cut off the leaves and make a nest.

04 Native plant garden

Beefriends garden is a climate-appropriate, habitat garden along the hiking trail. Plants are a combination of native and non-native and selected to provide flowering throughout the “bee year”, March-October.
The most visible trace, left by leaf-cutting bees, inspires the form of the garden
The form of the garden was inspired by one of the most common native bee, leaf cutting bee. They cut off the edge of a leaf fold it, carry it and make their nest with leaf cut-offs. The cut-offs left by leaf-cutting bees are the most visible traces, but invisible for most people to recognize.

05 Garden AR exploration

By using beefriends app, visitors can scan and learn more about the relationship between native plants and native bees, how native plants look like in different seasons, and what types of native bees that the plants attract.

06 Strategic collaboration

Collaboration with local small businesses to use edible native plants to create seasonal products/events. Host pop-up events at the beefriends garden.

07 Share on social media

People can post their hiking experience with beefriends on social media.
Behind the scene

We got our insights from more than 10 experts, research on-site at two native plant garden, three LA local hiking trails, made hard-to-count-how-many design prototypes and landed to our final design.

Hope you learn something new today!
Special thanks to
Instructor: Penny Herscovitch&Josh Halstead, TA: Athena Aquino
Guest speaker and bee experts: Kevin Matteson, Matt Kelly, Krystle Hickman @beesip, Ariane Harrison, Mariana Prieto, Joel Garcia
Amazing gardens in LA: Arlington garden, LA Arboretum
ArtCenter designmatters faculty
And my amazing classmates