402 results for “Augmented Bodies”

Cyborg artist Moon Ribas feels earthquakes

Freya Hutchings
February 11th 2020

Imagine waking in the night, and feeling the vibrations of an earthquake on the other side of the world pulsing through your body. This is a reality for Catalan-born artist Moon Ribas. How? She proudly proclaims: "I'm a cyborg."

Two implants located in Ribas' feet are connected to online seismic sensors, which send real-time vibrations through her body whenever an earthquake takes place. The strength of the vibrations correspond with the veracity of seismic movements. "Before, I knew Earth was …

Fake-for-Real: Octopus Lips

Freya Hutchings
January 20th 2020

A recent lip filler trend blew up on social media. 'Devil lips', or Octopus lips, have attracted divided opinion online. When the body modification hit Instagram, some spectators found the change in natural lip structure oddly attractive, to others it seemed completely ridiculous, and one beauty expert point blank dismissed them as dangerous, criticizing anyone who promoted the trend.

It is still unclear whether the fillers are a photo shop stunt or even surgically possible. Yet, a number of online …

Next Generation: Exploring the vegetal cyborg with Marie Declerfayt

NextNature.net
January 20th 2020

This story is part of Next Generation, a series in which we give young makers a platform to showcase their work. Want to see your work here? Get in touch and plot your coordinates as we navigate our future together.

Marie Declerfayt is a recent graduate from Design Academy Eindhoven. What follows is an edited version of her thesis relating to her graduate project, Botanical Bodies. Playing with the boundaries between human and vegetal existence, Declerfayt's speculative project creates space for us to …

Oded Ezer discusses the future of typography and the importance of dreaming

Freya Hutchings
November 29th 2019

Oded Ezer is a typographer from Israel who never fails to push boundaries, or rather, discard them altogether. Ezer is a rebellious force that swings between commercial and experimental work, often blurring the two realms.

His meaningful yet functional commercial type is always accompanied by an unexpected twist, and his experimental work dives unapologetically into intimate and obscure areas of life, combining developments in scientific and medical fields with the universal medium of type in provocative ways.

In our view, …

The beginner’s guide to biohacking

Peter Joosten
November 19th 2019

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term 'biohacking'? Perhaps you are now thinking of a bunch of kids sitting in their kitchen with a DNA kit, (wannabe) cyborgs inserting subcutaneous chips in their bodies, or perhaps a person striving for optimum performance through a perfect lifestyle. These are all types of biohacking, but there's more to it. Here's what you need to know (and were too afraid to ask).

Bulletproof coffee

The problem …

Instagram will remove filters promoting cosmetic surgery amid mental health concerns

Cara Curtis
October 29th 2019

If your Instagram feed is anything like mine, it’s littered with timelapses of injected lip fillers, Kardashian-promoted beauty products, and Story filters that “enhance” your face. The subliminal pressure to be “perfect” is no longer subliminal, and it’s putting more more of a strain on young users more than ever. 

This is why Instagram is planning to remove all AR filters that depict or are associated with cosmetic surgery. Over the past few months, filters like “Plastica” — an effect …

Exploring body architecture with Lucy McRae

Meike Schipper
August 13th 2019

As evolution goes on, the human body is evolving too. What does it mean to be human in times of advanced biotechnology and genetic engineering? Are our bodies ready for our technologized lifestyle? We spoke with science fiction artist and body architect Lucy McRae, who is exploring the future of our body, beauty and the self. 

As former ballet dancer and architect, Lucy effectively blurs the boundaries between design, art, architecture and science. She is well-known for her Swallowable Parfume …

This tiny tooth sensor tracks what you eat, and it could help you be healthier

Vanessa Bates Ramirez
December 28th 2018

The South Beach diet. The Atkins diet. Eating paleo. Cutting out gluten. Going vegan. The list of fad diets and health crazes goes on, yet health statistics in the US and around the world show that most people still don’t know what to eat, or when, or how much.

New research from Tufts University’s engineering school has created a product that may be able to help: a sensor worn on users’ teeth that wirelessly transmits data about food intake to …

Custom-grown bones, and other wild advances in regenerative medicine

Vanessa Bates Ramirez
November 8th 2018

The human body has always been an incredible machine, from the grand feats of strength and athleticism it can accomplish down to the fine details of each vein, nerve, and cell. But the way we think about the body has changed over time, as has our level of understanding of it.…

How animal filters unmask the estranged relation to our wild self

Meike Schipper
November 6th 2018

Would you like a dog snout, cat eyes or fluffy bunny ears? The choice is yours. Virtual selfie filters have become a widespread phenomenon on social media platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram. But what kind of self do these animal filters show us?…

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Imagine waking in the night, and feeling the vibrations of an earthquake on the other side of the world pulsing through your body. This is a reality for Catalan-born artist Moon Ribas. How? She proudly proclaims: "I'm a cyborg."

Two implants located in Ribas' feet are connected to online seismic sensors, which send real-time vibrations through her body whenever an earthquake takes place. The strength of the vibrations correspond with the veracity of seismic movements. "Before, I knew Earth was a living organism, now I feel it", says Ribas. A more recent implant also allows her to sense moonquakes. So, although she may physically dwell on earth, her feet feel the moon.

Ribas' new-found seismic sense allows her to surpass the limitations of human perception, and sync her body with the often incomprehensible scales and movements of natural phenomena. She shares the impact of her cyborg status with others through the medium of dance. For her performance "Waiting for Earthquakes", Ribas uses her body to communicate the sensations she feels: “Earth is my choreographer, she tells me when to move, she marks the rhythm."

Ribas sees technology as an opportunity to change our relationship with our surroundings: "now that I’m a cyborg, I don’t feel closer to machines or to robots, I feel closer to nature, because I can feel my planet, and I feel closer to other animal species because I can feel earthquakes like other animals can. If we could extend our senses in order to perceive and understand our planet in a deeper way, our behavior would change." Ribas fiercely believes we can all expand our perception and become "senstronauts." Instead of changing the world, she asks us "to be brave enough to transform ourselves."

Along with childhood friend and fellow cyborg Niel Harbisson, Moon Ribas co-founded the Cyborg Foundation in 2010. The foundation is an international organization that aims to help people become cyborgs, defend cyborg rights and promote cyborg art. In 2017, she formed the Transpecies society, a group that gives a voice to non-human identities and defends the right to self-design.

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A recent lip filler trend blew up on social media. 'Devil lips', or Octopus lips, have attracted divided opinion online. When the body modification hit Instagram, some spectators found the change in natural lip structure oddly attractive, to others it seemed completely ridiculous, and one beauty expert point blank dismissed them as dangerous, criticizing anyone who promoted the trend.

It is still unclear whether the fillers are a photo shop stunt or even surgically possible. Yet, a number of online influencers soon appeared to be sporting the new look - and we cannot underestimate their impact in the offline world. Just last year Instagram announced it would remove a range of filters that promote cosmetic surgery amid mental health concerns.

Additionally, plastic surgeons have revealed how their clients have not only been motivated by Instagram images, but use them as a visual reference for their requests. Also, remember how in 2018 US teens were seeking cosmetic surgery to look like their favorite Snapchat filter? What instances like this reveal is how, once again, beauty ideals find their way from online to offline spaces.

So, what are the limits of our abilities to transform ourselves and escape our biological constraints? Has the 'Instagram face',with its symmetrical, full-pouted lips, become an exhausted and predictable plastic surgery narrative? Does the devil/octopus lip trend indicate the beginning of new cosmetic preference that goes beyond exaggerated human characteristics, and towards the aesthetics of other-worldly creatures?

Release your inner devil, or octopus, it seems. Are new body modifications blurring the real with the fantastical, and will these transgressive aesthetics lead to more variety in self-expression, or just a different kind of homogeneity? What will the future of humans look like? Less human caricature and more species ambiguous? Only time will tell...

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This story is part of Next Generation, a series in which we give young makers a platform to showcase their work. Want to see your work here? Get in touch and plot your coordinates as we navigate our future together.

Marie Declerfayt is a recent graduate from Design Academy Eindhoven. What follows is an edited version of her thesis relating to her graduate project, Botanical Bodies. Playing with the boundaries between human and vegetal existence, Declerfayt's speculative project creates space for us to imagine how plant-human hybridization may transform our ways of engaging and living intimately with ecosystems in embodied ways.

Botanical Bodies: an essay by Marie Declerfayt

Botanical Bodies is a speculative design scenario that investigates the possibility of using plants as a raw material for the creation of human-compatible organs. Scientific progress in understanding complex living organisms has made it possible to engineer life, and the hybridization of species has become a designed process. This project explores how plant-human hybridization might become a necessity for preserving ecosystems endangered by human activity. 

Using bones and wood as a case study for this possible blend, Botanical Bodies looks at the implications of human symbiosis with the vegetal kingdom. Through extracting a wooden bone from a living tree and implantating it into the human body, this work imagines how the distinctions between humans and plants, crowds and forests, bone and wood may fade away towards a new synergy. 

Whereas the post-human is usually imagined as a blend of the organic and the digital, human and technology, the possibility for humans to merge with vegetal life is becoming a reality in today’s scientific landscape. What if the human of the future becomes more plant than robot, more connected with the environment rather than taking advantage of it, more prone to merging with other life forms rather than seeking to stand out?

The vegetal cyborg

Using digital and mechanical prosthesis to repair damaged organs, enhance skills, and acquire new properties is something dominant in current narratives of human improvement. Whilst this direction is slowly becoming a reality (i.e chip implantation, mechanical hearts), other possibilities to enhance the human body are being researched. 

Progress in the field of synthetic biology (design and construction of new biological entities) makes it possible to imagine new ways of modifying the human body. Previously overlooked organisms, ranging from bacteria to plants, can now be engineered to gain new functions and serve designed purposes.

"Previously overlooked organisms, ranging from bacteria to plants, can now be engineered to gain new functions and serve designed purposes."

The similarities in structure between human organs and plants has become a focus for scientists around the world. For example, one study has combined cardiac tissue and spinach (using decellularized plants as perfusable tissue engineering scaffolds, 2017, Gershlak-Hernandez-Fontana, Worcester Polytechnic Institute), and another has explored using rattan wood for bone growth (From Wood to bone: multi-step process to convert wood hierarchical structures into scaffolds for bone tissue engineering, 2009, Tempieri-Srio-Ruffini-Celloti-Lesci-Roveri). 

While scientists are working with very precise questions and with microscopic but functioning samples, speculating about the possibility of modifying the human body with vegetal matter raises all kinds of questions concerning the ways we relate to our bodies, the environment, and what it means to be human.

Wooden bones 

My decision to focus on using bones as a site for human-vegital merging is inspired by their characteristics: they are a structure crucial for our mobility, they are the slowest renewing organs of the human body (taking up to 10 years), and are closely tied to the human immune system. We attribute much importance to our bones; what happens when this importance becomes linked to other life forms?

"We attribute much importance to our bones; what happens when this importance becomes linked to other life forms?"

We are all intimately familiar with our bones in terms of their shape, the movements they allow, the structure they create, however, we don’t visually see them as a material in the way we interact with our skin, for example. Given that they remain unseen, wooden bones have similarities to human bones in terms of their texture, warmth and weight. Although metal is traditionally used to repair bones, it always acts as a support rather than seamlessly blending into the body. Wood as an organic matter seems more likely to be accepted by the body as it can merge with existing tissues.

The separation of species

What changes if we consider wood not as an unchangeable material but as an organic, evolving, growing matter extracted from a tree that can support and grow within the human body? We can then enter another perspective: the possibility of becoming a chimera with a plant.

As anthropologist Anna Lauwenhaupt has written, hybrids between species have historically been perceived as an aberration : 

“Enlightenment Europe...tried to banish monsters. Monsters were identified with the irrational and the archaic. Category-crossing beings were abhorrent to Enlightenment ways of ordering the world. Later on, rationalization meant individualization, the creation of distinct and alienated individuals, human and non-human.

Individualizing our bodies from our environment has created a separation between living beings, where to be human is to demonstrate difference, where taking advantage of other species rather than collaborating with them has become the norm. Therefore, we continue to see trees as a means for the production of wood for heating, shelter, cooking. Conventional uses of wood have become so ingrained that it is difficult to imagine another relation with it.

However, it is interesting to consider how the perceived autonomy of the human body can be easily challenged. For example, there are more foreign cells in the human body (microbes) than human cells, yet I still call myself a human. Moreover, wood and bones share very similar structures on a microscopic level (in terms of mechanical strength, size and structure), making the engineering of wooden bones far from being pure speculation.

"The perceived autonomy of the human body can be easily challenged."

Artist-sholars Elaine Gan and Niels Budandt evoke this perception:

“The imagined autonomy of the individual was tied to the autonomy of the species. Each species was thought to rise or fall on its own merits, that is, through the fitness of the individuals it produced. […] Today the autonomy of all these units has come under question  […] We can’t segregate our species nor claim distinctive status - as a body, a genome, or an immune system. And what if evolution selects for relations among species rather than “individuals”?”

If we understand ourselves as relative to other beings, alternatively we can perceive ourselves as part of a broad, interconnected network of living things, rather than as individuals defined by our seemingly unique characteristics. So, could we engage in a new relationship with the vegetal world by merging with it?

Creating a zero sum game

Why would such a hybridization the way I depict it (transplantation after transplantation, slowly merging into the vegetal world and becoming a new kind of chimera, a blend of tree and human tissues) be desirable?

And how do we reach a level of symbiosis, where all organisms involved gain something from this interaction? From a human perspective, there is a lot we could gain from becoming a bit more plant. On top of being able to replace our bones with organic matter that can be easily cultivated, the possibility to access plant awareness is tempting - we are learning more and more about how trees perceive their environment, how they can communicate with their peers and other species, how they feel pain, and respond to danger.

"From a human perspective, there is a lot we could gain from becoming a bit more plant. "

This broadening of human perception could be a gateway for connecting with all kinds of other species and perspectives, towards readjusting our relations in ecosystems currently endangered by a long history of damaging, anthropocentric activity. As for plants, what would they have to gain if humans felt more like them? Even though we are unable to perceive their needs from our limited perspective, we may be able to interact and exist with vegetal life in profound new ways.

If our symbiosis with other organisms is characterized by care and respect, we can strike a better balance between the worlds of human and non-human others. Indeed, blurring species boundaries might help us go beyond our conception of the vegetal world as a passive, unconscious resource for human use, and towards a shared, embodied existence of cooperation, collaboration and conscientiousness.

"Blurring species boundaries might help us go beyond our conception of the vegetal world as a passive, unconscious resource for human use, and towards a shared existence."


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Oded Ezer is a typographer from Israel who never fails to push boundaries, or rather, discard them altogether. Ezer is a rebellious force that swings between commercial and experimental work, often blurring the two realms.

His meaningful yet functional commercial type is always accompanied by an unexpected twist, and his experimental work dives unapologetically into intimate and obscure areas of life, combining developments in scientific and medical fields with the universal medium of type in provocative ways.

In our view, Ezer has truly earned the title of “mad type scientist”, and his oeuvre exists as a “typographic wonderland” where literally anything goes.

Ezer invites us to dream about an alternative future for type - one where text is not confined to a two dimensional existence, viewed merely as an external record of human culture. Instead, he imagines type as an integrated part of ourselves and the living systems that surround us. His typographic transgressions cleverly fuse letters to animate, changeable and embodied systems in ways that give words a whole new communicative power.

Ezer’s latest project, Veining (2019), is a continuation of his never-ending quest to bring type to places it has never been before. He presents us with a future in which self expression meets biology; where words can be surgically implanted under our skin and connected to our veins. Giving the internal workings of the body a new visibility, Ezer further imagines that a fluorescent liquid can be injected into the text-vein hybrid, taking this speculative re-imagining of body modification to the next level.

Time for a chat.

Oded Ezer, Veining (2019)
Oded Ezer, Veining (2019)

Your work often incorporates or imagines developments in biotechnology. Why do you feel a responsibility to explore these future possibilities?

I think that I have a responsibility towards the past, I am only one part of a long chain. Yet I also have a responsibility to the future of typography as a changing field. I feel maybe I can contribute something to this change. Even if my ideas are not realistic sometimes, they add to the discourse that surrounds developments in typography and technology.

"Every step in cultural change started with someone dreaming."

These works add some kind of reason to start a conversation about the future - the future of the field, and the future of our culture. Because typography is just the tip of the iceberg that is culture.

In the same way everyone has a responsibility to their culture, type is so universal that every contribution to the development of the field is also a contribution to the development of our culture. Typography is so fundamental for communicating, and an important brick in our future as human beings. The danger of what I’m doing is that somebody might think it is too far fetched. Someone can say you’re just dreaming - and I’m ok with that. Because every step in cultural change started with someone dreaming.

Oded Ezer, Veining (2019)

Let’s focus on your new project, Veining. How did it begin?

It started as another attempt to try to find new ways of working with type. My basic approach is to understand that the role of type is changing. People are reading less and less. They feel better with videos and visuals more and more. It is similar to the times where humans heard stories, and didn’t read them.

I’m naturally thinking, ok, so how would typography evolve now? That was my starting point: to find new ways of expressing, using and living with type. I had to think, what is the next step that will unite visual and typographic representation? We are living in a time where there has been a dramatic change in the role of type and written words. 

Do you see this change in the role of type as positive?

Conservative people might dislike this change. For some it is a loss. But you look at it afresh, as a possibility of change and redefinition, then it’s like a playground. It’s a good opportunity to play, think, imagine and invent. To contribute your angle. I think the next generation will have absolutely no problem with these kinds of body modifications. It is just a matter of perception, and norms are changing rapidly.

"The next generation will have absolutely no problem with these kinds of body modifications"

Oded Ezer, Veining (2019)
https://vimeo.com/354472098

How would integrating type into the body, as Veining proposes, make us view our bodies differently?

My suggestion is that we will relate to our bodies as a kind of screen, or interface. We can treat our bodies as a format to deliver messages, a tool. Instead of something that is just receiving data, we might use our bodies in ways that actually project data. We already have similar ideas, like using the skin as an interface. But what I'm suggesting is maybe the start of treating the whole three dimensional body as an interface.

"What I'm suggesting is maybe the start of treating the whole three dimensional body as an interface."

In the next phase we may go even deeper. We have so many possibilities and spaces to use under the skin - our muscles and inner organs. This may be a first step in going deeper into the body and treating it as a tool for communication data. It was so important for me that the type would be part of the body, not an additional element - a data communicating element that is part of the happenings of the body. 

For Typo-Plastic Surgeries (2006), Ezer imagined type as part of the human body - a seamless extension of his skin. This typographic fiction succeeds in re-imagining our connections with type, and experiments with the body as a communicator through a subversive hybridization of biology and text.
Oded Ezer, Typo-Plastic Surgeries (2006)

Did you incorporate medical and scientific knowledge into the design process of Veining? 

Usually I do, in the case of Veining I consulted medical surgeons. But I must confess, this is slightly less important to me right now. Because if you really think about veining in terms of practicality, you would learn that at the moment it would be very dangerous to do it. Whether it’s possible is not really the question. What is more important is the concept and the idea that something like this might work in the future. If I am caught up on thinking what is possible, it will stop me from thinking about typography. The idea is much more important than the practicality. 

"Whether it’s possible is not really the question"

In some cases people really want to know how it is possible. A number of people have asked me, why doesn’t the fluorescent liquid travel outside of the word after being injected into the blood? I imagine there would be some kind of gate or barrier within the vein, at the start and end of the word. This would allow the blood to travel through but stop the fluorescent liquid from seeping out. For instance, I know this kind of thing really is being developed by scientists. 

For Biotypography (2005-2006), Ezer morphed ants, rats and sperm cells into transgenic letter-organism hybrids through an imagined biotechnological intervention in their DNA. Here, type becomes a tangible shape-shifter between biology and culture, static and living, organic and technological.
Oded Ezer, Biotypography (2005-2006)

Would you like to be in closer communication with scientific and medical worlds?

I would love to do that. I just haven’t had the chance yet. I would love to have scientists contacting me with the start of an idea, asking to collaborate. I live in a country where there are groundbreaking scientists - Israel is famous for its innovative work. But somehow it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe my work is too artsy for scientists?

"It’s a good thing to consider because scientists often think like artists"

Given the opportunity, I would jump on it! It’s a good thing to consider because scientists often think like artists. I remember when Paolla Antonelli showed Typosperma at MoMA in 2008, she was so happy to find another project by a scientist that talked about some of the same things - but from a completely different angle. 

Oded Ezer, Typosperma (2006-2007)

Is your forward thinking approach something that is intuitive to you? 

I think intuition is a big part of it. Intuition is one of the most important things for going to the next level. But if you have no knowledge behind your intuition, your ideas will never go as deep as they can go. I think that my more academic and artistic knowledge is such a deep and great source for inspiration.

If you have it you can play with that in endless combinations. But if I want to move forward and create something about the future, I have to make the jump. The jump involves taking what I know and combining it with aspects that are new. And to not be afraid of going places where other people haven’t gone yet. I’ve never had this kind of fear - my only fear is to stop creating or to stop thinking. I’m not afraid to look ridiculous, I just want to go further.

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What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term 'biohacking'? Perhaps you are now thinking of a bunch of kids sitting in their kitchen with a DNA kit, (wannabe) cyborgs inserting subcutaneous chips in their bodies, or perhaps a person striving for optimum performance through a perfect lifestyle. These are all types of biohacking, but there's more to it. Here's what you need to know (and were too afraid to ask).

Bulletproof coffee

The problem with biohacking is that all the examples outlined above are true. Amateur biotechnologists, cyborgs and supporters of a healthy lifestyle all associate themselves with the term biohacking.

Within the latter group, which I call the lifestyle optimizers, Dave Asprey is the guru. Asprey is the frontman of the American brand Bulletproof. Among other things, this brand sells special coffee that you must mix with butter and coconut oil. The promised result: instant focus, without any sugar crash and hours of satiation.

A brief bio of biohacking

But what exactly do we mean when we speak of 'biohacking'? The term was first used in 1988 in an opinion piece for the Washington Post. The article described the possibilities to perform all kinds of technological experiments from your basement. This included DNA analysis, the cultivation of bacteria and testing the effect of viruses on fungi. Today, this definition is still dominant for the group of amateur biotechnologists.

Within the other two groups, the cyborgs and the lifestyle optimizers, biohacking is aimed at people. In using the term, the link to computers is made: just consider how computerhackers break into hardware and software vs. biohackers grinding their own wetware.

The cyborgs take this notion quite literally, by implanting technology into their bodies, whereas lifestyle followers believe that you can improve the human body and prevent aging with smart nutrition, health hacks and useful gadgets.

Steam engines and other metaphors

The comparison with computer technology comes from our current technological paradigm. Yet in the past, the paradigm of that time was used to look at the human body.

At the time of the Industrial Revolution, the human brain was considered a constellation of pipes, steam and drive shafts. The saying "blowing off some steam" is also a good example of how people saw themselves as, well, a kind of steam engine.

These days we see the brain often described as an algorithm or hard disk and the body as a battery that needs to recharge. Keeping this in mind, the idea of biohacking is not that strange.

Technology after all, is what makes us human.

Shifting boundaries

Take something as simple as sight. In prehistoric times, your chances of survival were nil when suffering from poor vision. When the first glasses were made around 1200 AD, our ancestors most likely responded, “Your vision was given to you by God—why change that?"

As we have developed ourselves scientifically over time, so did our technology; as contact lenses are socially accepted today, does this also apply to smart contact lenses that have a Google Glass-like function tomorrow?

And what about LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis), or commonly referred to as laser eye surgery. This technology is becoming more accessible, but how socially accepted is it to give yourself super vision like golf superstar Tiger Woods

This is my point: ethical boundaries of what we find socially acceptable are constantly shifting. That is what biohacking is about. Glasses are no longer biohacking, but smart contact lenses are.

Thinking ahead, one may wonder: Will glasses at some point become out-dated? Will everyone have genetically modified eyes for optimum vision?

Chances are, the next generations of biohackers will be at the forefront of these technologies. Perhaps they will replace their biological eyes with bionic ones. Perhaps they will simply change their diet.

Just like our technology, biohacking (and its dream and ideas that we have of ourselves) moves along the progress of mankind. But as with other technological developments, it's impossible to predict how these will evolve in the future. But there is one thing that we can be certain of. Things will change.

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If your Instagram feed is anything like mine, it’s littered with timelapses of injected lip fillers, Kardashian-promoted beauty products, and Story filters that “enhance” your face. The subliminal pressure to be “perfect” is no longer subliminal, and it’s putting more more of a strain on young users more than ever

This is why Instagram is planning to remove all AR filters that depict or are associated with cosmetic surgery. Over the past few months, filters like “Plastica” — an effect that gives you extreme plastic surgery — have become increasingly popular, even viral. But with their rapid popularity comes growing concerns over the impact they may have on young people’s body image.

Instagram-filter-cosmetic-surgery

Back in August, Facebook announced its (previously invite-only) tool to create face filters — Spark AR Creators – was open to the public, allowing anyone to create and publish effects for use in Instagram Stories. With this came a flood of more problematic filters, such as “Fix Me” an effect which illustrates the pen-markings of pre-surgery, including a nose job, eyebrow lift, and cheek fillers.

Although Spark AR didn’t design the filter, it did approve the filter to be used by its one billion users on Instagram Stories. A post published by Spark AR Creators stated that it wants its filters “to be a positive experience and are re-evaluating its existing policies as they relate to well-being.” While its policies are being reviewed and updated, Facebook is removing existing filters like “Fix Me,” and postponing the approval of any similar new effects.

This news comes shortly after Facebook and Instagram announced they will tighten their policy on posts related to cosmetic surgery and weight loss products by hiding related posts from users known to be aged under 18. This update includes the removal of any content that makes a “miraculous” claim about a diet or weight-loss product linked to a commercial offer, such as a discount code or affiliate link.

It’s reassuring to see Instagram and Facebook take responsibility for what they’ve been hosting, but it remains to be seen how proactively they will respond to issues of mental and physical health in the future.

This article is republished from The Next Web under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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As evolution goes on, the human body is evolving too. What does it mean to be human in times of advanced biotechnology and genetic engineering? Are our bodies ready for our technologized lifestyle? We spoke with science fiction artist and body architect Lucy McRae, who is exploring the future of our body, beauty and the self. 

As former ballet dancer and architect, Lucy effectively blurs the boundaries between design, art, architecture and science. She is well-known for her Swallowable Parfume and the photographic collaboration with Bart Hess, with whom she explored how the human silhouette might evolve. We spoke to Lucy about her recent projects, the future of our bodies and the importance of a feminine perspective on technology. 

Crisis of touch

Lucy’s most recent project is the Compression Cradle, which she exhibited at the Design Triennale in Milan. The Compression Cradle is a machine that affectionately hugs you. Every hour, audience members were able to get underneath the Compression Cradle and aerated volumes would hold them tight. Is this the way to prepare our bodies for a future that lacks human affection?

The Compression Cradle (2019), co-commissioned by Het Nieuwe Instituut and Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences

“Last year, The Guardian released an interesting article that said we are in a crisis of touch,” Lucy tells. “When you hug someone, you release the hormone oxytocin, a hormone that is responsible for building trust and desire amongst humans.” Unfortunately, in our world of virtual connection human touch becomes scarce. 

Instead of perceiving technology as the alienating factor in human connections, Lucy is interested in its possibilities. “Perhaps in the future, technology will be able to fill those needs. Will we have machines that repair the broken bonds with ourselves and the people around us? Compression Cradle is part of my inquiry into design as something that is restorative. Can design become a restorative mechanism?”

Break down barriers

The concept of restorative design and technology originates from an earlier project: The Future Day Spa. This futuristic spa is a personalised, guided experience, offering treatments that evoke states of love, trust and relaxation. “The Future Day Spa is also a project around a machine that hugs you, but it is shown in a different way; more like a film where the audience are characters in the future scenario,” Lucy explains.

The Future Day Spa (2015)

“During the ten-minute treatment at the Future Day Spa, one of the audience members said that he suffered from haptophobia, which is a fear of touch. He never had physical contact with any other person. Yet after the treatment, he said this felt like an embrace; he knew that this felt like a hug. There was this very sincere emotional connection going on, and when he got up out of the bed, he reached out and he hugged me. I realized that even somebody who silences his release of oxytocin and deprives himself off touch, still has this craving for it.”

This experience triggered Lucy to look at technology differently. “In this case, technology was the bridge between his fear of touch and his desire to be touched, which resulted in him breaking that barrier and then interacting with me again by giving me a hug. For me, it’s not about technology being in the spotlight; technology is being a harbinger to break down barriers. So that we get in touch with ourselves again.”

Technology is being a harbinger to break down barriers.

We are the protagonists

Lucy’s focus on bodily experience, touch and beauty is - up until now - quite unusual in the field of science fiction. She wants to give science fiction the sex change that is long overdue. “I am pleading for a future that is fleshy, visceral, messy and far away from anything related to the masculine sci-fi stereotype.”

“I think that it is necessary to bring a feminine perspective on technology and treat it more like an elastic membrane that is draped over something else, as opposed to it being the protagonist. I feel like our bodies, our minds and our personalities are the protagonist and technology exists just to support what we are trying to achieve.”

Our bodies, our minds and our personalities are the protagonist.

Lucy emphasizes that the exploration of subjects such as beauty and identity is essential to science fiction. “We are testing our future by imagining life off earth. In a way, beauty and identity are testing the waters of the future. Perhaps leaving earth and going to space is so alienating, that we are exploring alienating beauty as a way of testing what it might be like to live off earth. Beauty and fashion almost become symbols of where we are going.”

Calculated beauty

The Biometric Mirror utilizes the concept of beauty to reflect on artificial intelligence. “Biometric Mirror is a beauty salon that invites the general public to come in and be analyzed,” Lucy elaborates. “You're told how weird you are, whether you’re an introvert and extrovert, your gender, your age; it's this clean sweep of biometrics. Next, it morphs your face into what is considered to be bio-statistically beautiful.” It’s definition of beauty is based on an equation of Hollywood’s plastic surgery, the Marquardt’s mask, that is still used in most plastic surgeries to date. 

“The result is that, if we all follow the kind of perfected beauty portals that the Marquardt’s mask draws up, we are all going to look the same. Will artificial intelligence end up with a dull mono aesthetic without variation? Biometric Mirror is a way to engage the public and ask questions around the ethics of artificial intelligence. We need to be able to make accidents and there needs to be serendipity. How do we make sure that we keep that serendipity in artificial intelligence?”
 

How do we make sure that we keep that serendipity in artificial intelligence?

Generally, science seems to be on a mission to achieve perfection and suppress serendipity. “If we look for example at genetic engineering, its’ aim is to remove any disease, any imperfections. We can delete it; we can cut it out and replace it.” This is both a danger and a chance. “In a way, science is design. And that excites me, because then we may deliberately design the human body,” Lucy states.

After all, she remains an optimist. “I think the most important thing is that we ask the right questions, that the questions we’re asking are relevant and provocative and disruptive. We have to make sure that we are asking everybody, not just the experts. And that's why art is so important; you can't quantify art, you can't measure experimentation, and that's what makes it so valuable. Art and design can ask questions that science and technology may not. Ideally, someone experiences my work and is inspired to ask a question that they never have thought of before.” 

Lucy McRae is currently preparing for a solo show at NGV in Melbourne, Australia. You can also experience her work at San Fransisco MOMA as part of the show Far Out until January 2020, and during the first Rabat Biennale starting in September 2019.

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The South Beach diet. The Atkins diet. Eating paleo. Cutting out gluten. Going vegan. The list of fad diets and health crazes goes on, yet health statistics in the US and around the world show that most people still don’t know what to eat, or when, or how much.

New research from Tufts University’s engineering school has created a product that may be able to help: a sensor worn on users’ teeth that wirelessly transmits data about food intake to a smartphone app.

In a paper published in March in the journal Advanced Materials, the Tufts team deconstructed the sensor. It’s made of a porous silk film or a hydrogel that responds to changes in pH or temperature—the active layer—sandwiched between two square-shaped gold outer panels. The sensor’s middle layer detects chemicals and nutrients, reacting to different inputs with a shift in its electrical properties. That shift causes the sensor to transmit a different spectrum and intensity of radio frequency waves back to the app.

The future of the bioresponsive sensor

Fiorenzo Omenetto, a biomedical engineering professor at Tufts and co-author of the study, said, “We have extended common RFID [radio frequency ID] technology to a sensor package that can dynamically read and transmit information on its environment, whether it is affixed to a tooth, to skin, or any other surface.”

Measuring just two millimeters on each side, the sensor is impressively tiny, and it’s succeeded in detecting sugar, salt, and alcohol. The team plans to refine the sensor to the point where it will be able to detect and measure all kinds of nutrients, and maybe even biochemicals too. “In theory we can modify the bioresponsive layer in these sensors to target other chemicals. We are really limited only by our creativity,” Omenetto said.

The promise of the quantified self

Once you’ve chosen the right diet for you, then, wearing a sensor like this could help you get your quantities spot-on, ideally helping you improve your diet and thus your overall health. The sensor is just the latest in a series of wearable devices springing from the quantified self movement—from Fitbits to smart watches, these data-harvesting gadgets all aim to give users increased awareness and thus increased control over their own health, ideally shifting healthcare norms from reactive to proactive, curative to preventative.

A small step forward

It’s important to note, though, that while sensors and similar tools could certainly prove useful, they’re just one small component on the vast landscape of improving our diet and our health.

A disproportionate amount of the food we eat, particularly in the US, is heavily processed; we’re eating more chemicals than we are nutrients. In addition, many low-income areas are classified as food deserts, not a head of broccoli or a bunch of bananas in sight. Before monitoring the contents of each bite of food you eat, you must have access to healthy foods in the first place, not to mention know what’s healthy and what isn’t.

Ideally, then, the tooth sensor and other health tech like it will be geared towards a wide range of users, not just those who’ve already tried going paleo. Or pescatarian. Or dairy-free. You get the idea.

Image Credit: SilkLab, Tufts University

This article originally appeared on Singularity Hub, a publication of Singularity University.

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The human body has always been an incredible machine, from the grand feats of strength and athleticism it can accomplish down to the fine details of each vein, nerve, and cell. But the way we think about the body has changed over time, as has our level of understanding of it.

In Nina Tandon’s view, there have been two different phases of knowledge here. “For so much of human history, medicine was about letting the body come to rest, because there was an assumed proportionality attributed to the body,” she said.

Then, around the turn of the last century, we started developing interchangeable parts (whether from donors, or made of plastic or metal), and thinking of our bodies a bit more like machines. “We’re each made out of 206 bones held together by 360 joints,” Tandon said. “But many of us are more than that. By the time we go through this lifetime, 70 percent of us will be living with parts of our body that we weren’t born with.”

If that percentage seems high—it did to me—consider all the things that count as ‘parts’ of our bodies that are artificial: Dental implants. Pacemakers. IUDs. Joint replacements.

Now, though, we’re moving into a third phase of bodily knowledge. “We are an ecosystem of cellular beings, trillions of cells,” Tandon said. “We finally realized that man is a modular system, and cells are the pixels in this world.”

Tandon is co-founder and CEO of EpiBone, a company working on custom-growing bones using patients’ own stem cells. In a talk at Singularity University’s Exponential Medicine in San Diego this week, Tandon shared some of her company’s work and her insights into regenerative medicine, a field with tremendous promise for improving human well-being.

NIna Tandon Exponential Medicine Summit 2018
Nina Tandon at Exponential Medicine

What sets the third phase of knowledge apart from the second phase is that we’re learning how to fix and rebuild our own bodies using, well, our own bodies. Some examples include CAR-T therapies, which fight cancer using a patient’s own cells; regenerative medicine, which uses stem cells to repair body parts or make new ones; and microbiome analyses, which use our gut bacteria to fashion personalized dietary treatments.

Tandon’s expertise, though, is in personalized bones (not a term you ever thought you’d hear, is it?). “Bone is the most transplanted human tissue after blood,” she said. “And we’re replacing over a million joints every year in this country alone, just because of a couple millimeters of damaged cartilage. Welcome to the hundred-billion-dollar medical device industry.”

Epibone is working on doing it better. Here are some details of their method.

First, patients undergo a CT scan to determine the size and shape of the bone they need. Stem cells are extracted from the adipose (fatty) tissue in the abdomen. A scaffold model of the bone is created, as is a custom bioreactor to grow the bone in, while the extracted stem cells are prodded to differentiate into osteoblasts (bone cells).

When they’re ready, the stem cells are infused into the bone scaffold, and a personalized bone graft grows in the bioreactor in just three weeks. When the new bone is implanted into the patient’s body, the surrounding tissue seamlessly integrates with it; the custom size and shape ensure it will fit, there’s no risk of rejection since it contains the patient’s own cells, and since it’s made of living tissue, it’s likely to require far less revision than other types of implants.

Epibone is hoping to start human clinical trials next year, and it’s in good company; Tandon mentioned several concurrent projects in regenerative medicine that show we’ve truly entered the “biofabrication age,” as she put it.

Humacyte is working on bioengineered acellular vessels, and is currently in phase three clinical trials. Emulate Bio miniaturizes organoids on tissue chips. CollPlant has engineered tobacco plants to produce recombinant human collagen. Ecovative uses mushrooms to engineer sustainable advanced materials. BioMASON created a concrete that self-heals its cracks using water-activated bacteria.

“Cellular therapies can also involve using bugs as drugs,” Tandon said. “Imagine a probiotic yogurt being a kind of diagnostic device in the future using these little micro machines called bacteria.” To that end, Sangeeta Bhatia’s lab at MIT has engineered bacteria to glow green in the presence of colon cancer cells.

The list goes on—companies are building tools so wild that many still sound like science fiction.

As they continue to advance, Tandon noted, we must always consider the ethics behind these technologies and how we’re using them, and the conversations need to go beyond hot-button issues like designer babies or body modification.

“Are the modalities of government grant funding, angel funding, and VC really incentivizing us to develop the technologies that we want to see?” she asked. Access to biotech tools and treatments is an ethical consideration as well; scale and cost control must be foremost in biotech developers’ minds, so as not to end up with solutions for only the wealthy and privileged.

Regenerative medicine will certainly pose challenges, but its possibilities are vast and exciting.

In closing, Tandon asked the audience to envision a future where all the extra parts our bodies need “…are made not out of metal, not out of ceramic, not out of parts carved from other peoples’ bodies—but made out of ourselves.”

Image Credit: ChooChin / Shutterstock.com
This article originally appeared on Singularity Hub, a publication of Singularity University.

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Would you like a dog snout, cat eyes or fluffy bunny ears? The choice is yours. Virtual selfie filters have become a widespread phenomenon on social media platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram. But what kind of self do these animal filters show us?

"Animal filters are not about animals. They are about humans."

Photo-editing is nothing new, and selfie enhancing software is omnipresent. Face filters herald an evolution of photo-editing as they are based on the technology of augmented reality - which enables real-time editing.

When you take a selfie with Snapchat or Instagram, the mobile camera recognizes the appearance of your face and instantly augments a layer on top. These augmenting technologies merge the virtual representation of our human face with the simulation of, for example, an animal.

The reach of those filters goes beyond augmentation, which has become evident with the rise of Snapchat dysmorphia as a result of beautifying filters. They largely shape our experience of self. But what is the deal with those cute animal filters?

Humanizing wild nature

When you think about face filters, chances are, you think about the classic Snapchat dog snout: face filters and the depiction of animals are fascinatingly interconnected.

Similar to how we humanize our pets and dress up our cats and dogs, we humanize wild animals by making them into cute and aesthetic filters. And while real nature might be scary and unpredictable, animal filters are not. They are a clear record of our estranged relationship with wild nature.

Rather than hairy, strong and wild, animal filters look fluffy and cute.

The majority of animal filters additionally add makeup, enlarge the eyes and make the chin smaller. These are conventions of female beauty, that stem specifically from the Asian notion of cuteness or kawaii.

Kawaii is based on the infantilizing of facial characteristics and is increasingly influencing Western beauty ideals. As humans, we are attracted to large eyes and round faces because they resemble babies.

The cuteness of babies and animals instinctively triggers our urge to take care of them. Portraying yourself as a cute animal might thus be a very effective - and somehow even natural - way to appear more likeable.

Bio-mimicking our self(ie)

Animal filters are a selective and aesthetic form of biomimicry. Nature has an aura of authenticity and beauty and is a terrific marketing tool. We call this phenomenon biomimicmarketing: using images of nature to market a product.

Mostly, the product itself has nothing to do with its natural reference: Lacoste is not about crocodiles, Linux is not about penguins, Bacardi is not about bats and Apple is certainly not a fruit company. Similarly, animal filters are not about animals. They are about humans.

We use the aesthetics and specific cute qualities of animals to optimize our personal image. It seems like animal filters give us the opportunity to play with the notion of being an animal, but instead they reinforce the boundaries of human beauty norms.

I am not an animal

The cute versus wild paradox is illustrating the human experience of nature in our contemporary society. The use of animal filters is actually emphasizing that “I am not an animal, therefore I can pretend to be one”.

Contrary to our first hunch, animal filters do not bring us closer to animals. Instead, they enable us to distance ourselves from the species we do not belong to. The humanized animal filters are reinforcing our anthropocentric worldview, in which humans are the center of existence and largely distanced from animals.

We all love face filters, but we prefer to stay far away from our wild, beasty self.

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Imagine waking in the night, and feeling the vibrations of an earthquake on the other side of the world pulsing through your body. This is a reality for Catalan-born artist Moon Ribas. How? She proudly proclaims: "I'm a cyborg."

Two implants located in Ribas' feet are connected to online seismic sensors, which send real-time vibrations through her body whenever an earthquake takes place. The strength of the vibrations correspond with the veracity of seismic movements. "Before, I knew Earth was a living organism, now I feel it", says Ribas. A more recent implant also allows her to sense moonquakes. So, although she may physically dwell on earth, her feet feel the moon.

Ribas' new-found seismic sense allows her to surpass the limitations of human perception, and sync her body with the often incomprehensible scales and movements of natural phenomena. She shares the impact of her cyborg status with others through the medium of dance. For her performance "Waiting for Earthquakes", Ribas uses her body to communicate the sensations she feels: “Earth is my choreographer, she tells me when to move, she marks the rhythm."

Ribas sees technology as an opportunity to change our relationship with our surroundings: "now that I’m a cyborg, I don’t feel closer to machines or to robots, I feel closer to nature, because I can feel my planet, and I feel closer to other animal species because I can feel earthquakes like other animals can. If we could extend our senses in order to perceive and understand our planet in a deeper way, our behavior would change." Ribas fiercely believes we can all expand our perception and become "senstronauts." Instead of changing the world, she asks us "to be brave enough to transform ourselves."

Along with childhood friend and fellow cyborg Niel Harbisson, Moon Ribas co-founded the Cyborg Foundation in 2010. The foundation is an international organization that aims to help people become cyborgs, defend cyborg rights and promote cyborg art. In 2017, she formed the Transpecies society, a group that gives a voice to non-human identities and defends the right to self-design.

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