In Technobiophilia I wrote about an experiment conducted in the busy waiting room of a dentist’s office in 1984. On some days, before the surgery opened, researchers installed an aquarium full of fish. On other days they took it away. They measured the patients’ anxiety in both environments, and the results were very clear. On aquarium days, patients were less anxious in the waiting room and more compliant during the surgery. A different group of researchers in a different dentist’s office used a large nature mural instead of an aquarium and got similar results. A third experiment found that stressed blood donors experienced lowered blood pressure and pulse rates while sitting in a room where a videotape of a nature scene was playing on TV. The general conclusion was that visual exposure to nature not only diminishes patient stress but can also reduce physical pain.*

At the time I had a live wallpaper app on my phone that does something very similar. Made by Kittehface, it generates animated Koi carp, long, plump and sleek. Some are pure orange with white fins; others have black mottled markings along their orange backs. They glide, twist and turn above a bed of flat pale sand fringed by rocks and the bright green leaves of something like watercress.

Koi Kittehface


Sometimes they swim right out of view, leaving me to gaze at the empty scene in the certain knowledge that they will soon reappear. When I gently press my finger against the screen, the water ripples and the fish swim away. Eventually, they cruise out from behind the Google widget, appear from underneath the Facebook icon, or sneak around the corner of Contacts.

I was interested to see this photo all the way from a doctor’s waiting room in Abu Dhabi. I’m sure it has a similarly positive effect on the patients there!

*Roger S. Ulrich. ‘Biophilic theory and research for healthcare design’. In Biophilic Design, by Stephen R. Kellert, Judith R. Heerwagen and Martin L. Mador. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2008, 92.