Sunday, September 13, 2009

HAL in the wild

Probably you've all seen Cyberdyne's HAL 'assistive limb' device, that in the future will render your biological legs obsolete. That is, if we start using these as casually as these three jolly Japanese roaming the streets with their new externalized skeletons. To me a showcasing of a technology in actual daily use as in this video is always much more interesting and insightful than the usual spotless and clean studioimages. In the evolutionary tree to-be of assistive walkers, I would warmly welcome an four-legged assistive device with dry-adhesive undersurfaces.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

skin as canvas

Recent work of Lucy McRae shows her continued low-tech exploration towards an aesthetic expression of interactive technology and the body. Her 'Chlorophyll Skin' especially shows how a physical augmentation of the skin, through repetition and the intricacies inherent in the material embodiment, can modulate behavior and make for a rich and sensitive interaction, rather than having a bunch of preprogrammed electronics do their aggressive number crunching.

Now will people open up and dare to break away from their biologically given form, And is this truly an aesthetic precursor to a nano-scale 'digidermis'? I hope so; who wouldn't love to have a skin that can, say, change color, block out sunlight, excrete chocolate sauce wherever you like, or even medicines, and clean itself afterwards?

And this just reminds me of the sci-fi classic 'the Blob'.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

flowtime and the augmented yogi

Ralph Zoontjens, the author of this blog and master student at the department of Industrial Design at the Eindhoven University of Technology, has recently graduated with his project "Flowtime: wearable biofeedback for synchronizing body and breath during yoga practice". (Yes I am writing about myself here)

Zoontjens has developed an interactive jacket that guides people with practicing yoga postures at home. The jacket contains soft sensors and a belt with vibration motors on the back. A device worn on the front of the belt connects to software with a virtual yoga trainer that encourages the practitioner to align breath and movement. The vibrations help this guidance by following a wave-like pattern. This way, technology becomes a peripheral signal that recedes into the background of awareness, and helps people become one with their body and mind.

This project is a step to his future vision of the 'cosmic cyborg'; a mode of being where, through progressively skilled interaction engaging the body and mind as fully combined, human and technology become one. This way, we regain an embodied intuition in our new biotechnological lifeworlds, so we gradually step away from detached, disembodied and rational thinking, but become intrinsically reunited with our world again.

The more concrete vision is to bring people an awareness of their own biologically given body and mind through yoga practice, so they can liberate themselves from socio-cultural enframings and redefine themselves ontologically with what is here, in the present moment. By developing technology for yoga practice and positioning it as an exergame, Zoontjens hopes to make yoga more accessible and relieve it from culturally distancing connotations like those of esoteric philosophy, spirituality and meditation, while staying true to the original teachings.

Of course Flowtime is a first step, and to become viable as a marketable product many steps of integration need to be done, especially concerning the blending of textiles and electronics. The design will be refined in the coming weeks,  and I will give you an update here on this blog when the time comes. Also, upcoming is a video that explains the Flowtime system in use and shows how it is linked to yoga practice, and the audiovisual software environment.

Further, I'd like to invite you to all come, see,  and try out the Flowtime system at the upcoming 'Stiltefestival' ("festival of silence"), on September 15th, 2009 from noon till 6PM at Eindhoven University of Technology.

More information:

See you there!