Body Architecture, what is it and which questions does it raise?

This article covers a topic over which I just recently stumbled (TED Talk by Lucy McRae). At Motius we are close to the newest technologies every day, working on ideas and prototypes that may shape our future. What caught me about Body Architecture is that it puts our body in the center and designs technology and products around it.

A new type of technology…

Body Architecture is a new discipline, born as a merge between biology, technology and art. It aims to fully explore the human body and its transformations in the future. Body architects envision how the society in the next ten, fifty or five hundred years might evolve, and this way; present a very disruptive scenario of how these changes will impact the human itself. One of their main focusses is reprogramming biology in a future, away from disease and aging. In this context, human evolution is understood as the integration of new technologies in the human body, that help us adapt to our new life styles and living conditions. For this purpose, the curiosity, creativity and out of the box thinking of body architects are required. They explore the frontiers of the human body and reinvent the way materials are used and perceived. It is in the combination of this imaginative and future oriented thinking, with the strong scientific and technical knowledge required, where the symbiosis of arts, biology and technology is to be appreciated.

…changing the way we express emotions

Does it sound too futuristic for you? What can we imagine under this integration of technology in the human body? Phillips was one of the companies that first started exploring this discipline and the kind of impacts that it could have in a future society. One of their creations is the so called “emotion sensing dress”. A dress that lights up and blushes in a different way, when someone feels a given emotion. The purpose of this project was to understand the biochemical levels behind certain emotions (first kiss, touching someone, etc.) and to be able to communicate somehow these feelings. Changing dramatically in that sense, the way human interaction is currently understood and going back to more primal and transparent mode of communication.

…changing the way we choose our partner

Another example of what body architects can do is the swallowable perfume. A protein impregnated with fragrance, that the body by means of its natural processes of breaking down fats can transform so that a genetically unique fragrance will be excreted through the sweat glands when transpiring. By using this natural process, we can achieve the side effect of modifying the body’s odor. Our bodies become atomizers and allow perfume coming from the inside out. But further than the benefit of the fragrance itself, what does this in a broader sense mean for humanity? When choosing a partner for example, one of the main factors is odor. Will we be able to manipulate the immune system? Is evolution the way we know it obsolete? Is the driver not going to be nature anymore but human intent?

…changing the way we interact with technology

Some other companies have placed their interest in redefining the role of skin and follow the extreme trend of body adornment. As an example, the augmented tattoo of Phillips understands the skin as a platform for innovation and electronic interaction. They have come up with a tattoo made of magnetic particles placed under the skin, that will form a tattoo when being touched (Phillips Electronic Tattoo). Google has also jumped into this body architecture trend with their embedded sensors tattoos. These are temporary tattoos made of submillimeter sized electrodes, that allow the user to control a handset with their skin by touching, squeezing or sliding the tattoo (SkinMarks).

…changing the way we are?

From a human perspective body achitecture provides uncertainty. It urges to think about some aspects like: What does being a human mean? Do we become less human by integrating technology in our bodies? Moreover, how are we going to be able to recognize in the nearfuture where the old human ends and the new one starts? Consequently, a very scary thought should be considered, are we tending to a mono-aesthetic human, a intended modification of life (Human Bakery)? From a technological perspective, though, body architecture opens a whole new approach of the way we percieve and interact with technology. Until now, technology has been separate devices with which we interact. What if technology becomes part of our body? What if, instead of interacting with a device, we interact with our body? Our body could become the platform or tool for technological applications. (check out this amazing post about a company Elon Musk started on this topic)

To sum it up, body architecture has introduced itself as a creative way to trigger innovation centered in the human body and the integration of technology on it. This people oriented approach allows this discipline to continuously find out business gaps and affects both, companies’ and end-users’ engagement and interest; developing new product opportunities that will sooner or later revolutionize the market.


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