Consider this: in the future, artificial wombs could replace incubators as they mimic the natural environment of the female uterus. But what will these devices look like? And how should we respond to such technology if or when it comes knocking at our cultural doors? Now, we are delighted to present our speculative design proposal for an artificial womb in close collaboration with Máxima Medical Centre. Because if not us, then who?

To give you some background, Máxima Medical Centre is taking steps into the development of the first artificial womb, in order to increase the chances of survival of extremely premature babies in the period of 24-28 weeks.

At this moment, these chances are low: 61% dies with 24 weeks and 43% with 25 weeks. The babies that survive, often suffer from chronical damage such as brain damage, chronical breathing problems, retina problems and possibility of blindness.

“Every week we can prolong the growth of a 24-week old foetus in a artificial womb, we increase the chances of survival with 18%”, says Guid Oei, gynecologist of MMC. “If we can extend this to 28 weeks we the biggest danger of premature death is probably gone”.

Hendrik-Jan Grievink, designer NNN and Dr. Oei, gynecologist MMC.

The unique collaboration between Máxima Medical Centre and Next Nature Network is part of an ongoing research into the impact of technology on the future of biological reproduction, intimacy and relationships under the working title REPRODUTOPIA.

Because how will we make babies, experience intimacy and build families in the future?

Next Nature Network reframes this question in terms of design: is it possible and preferable that this area is something that can be designed? And if so, what strategies can we follow?

The research will lead into a series of publications, exhibitions and events over the course of the coming years.

Design for debate: the artificial womb prototype as presented at the Dutch Design Week

The artificial womb installation was presented at the Chronic Healthexhibition during the Dutch Design Week (October 20-28 Eindhoven, The Netherlands) and will travel afterwards.

If you are interested in booking the installation for your event, please contact us.

Photography: Bram Saeys

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  • All they have are red balloons. There is no such thing as an artificial placenta and without a uterus to attach to what use would a placenta be? You can't just cut the ambilocal cord from the placenta and plug it into something else!

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  • I want to know how they attach the artificial umbilical cord to the baby.

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  • Interesting to see our design for an artificial womb traveling all over the internet. What began as a speculative proposal to start a much needed debate, is now a leading image and steering the actual development of this technology. How will we live, love and reproduce in next nature?

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