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nano home of the future : Project Statements
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Nano Home of the Future: Project Statements

Introduction to the Projects

A telepathic kitchen.
A living room that helps you relive the past.
A personal nomadic home.
A shelter embedded beneath the skin.
A house that gains legal ownership of its occupant's DNA.
A nanoscale journey through the home of today...

All of these ideas are brought to life through the Nano Home of the Future project. This interactive gallery features the work of six unique teams of scientists + artists + designers who have each set out to envision their dream home of the future in words, pictures, animation, and sound. The result: six remarkable, and remarkably different, blueprints for possible domestic worlds. Six projects that question how we will live in the everyday of the future: Will our lives follow familiar patterns, or be forever changed? Will we build utopia, dystopia, or something in between? How will nanotech recombine with the ethics and ideals of daily living? How will new materials merge with our physical bodies and affect our metaphysical perceptions? Will a new awareness about the nanocosmos reconfigure the way we visualize our little corner of the universe? Join our creative teams in these and other speculations. Their full interactive projects can be explored in the Flash version of Issue 14: DREAM.

Memory Rich Architecture
Dream Team #1: Joanna Berzowska, Arek Banasik, Francis Reed

Reliving the Past with Personal Memory Assistants
Digital technologies enable us to capture, store, and catalogue an ever-increasing amount of information about ourselves. In the future, pervasive computing environments will become a strong infrastructure to capture our experiences through networked ubiquitous sensors that record various aspects our activities. At the same time, scientists are receiving increasing amounts of funding to research technologies such as "remembrance agents" and personal digital assistants that will help us track our appointments, commitments, and important life details.

Memory Rich Architecture is a Nano Home project created by Joanna Berzowska with the collaboration of Arek Banasik and Francis Reed. For a more extended elaboration ofJoanna Berzowska's thoughts on memory-rich architectures, read the Blueprints for Tomorrow collection of short writings in the Essays and Fiction section of this issue of HorizonZero.

The Team
Arek Banasik is an independent artist and designer based in New York and Montreal. His work and research involve computational graphics, interaction design, reactive fashion, responsive furniture, music, and sound. In 1994, he co-founded a multi-disciplinary design studio in New York called io/360, where he helped launch the field of computation design. His work has been featured in publications such as ID Magazine, Blueprint, Nikkei Design, Print Magazine, Forum, Axis, Aesthetics of Surveillance, and Re:Buzz. He is a graduate of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Arts and Sciences in New York.

Joey Berzowska is an Assistant Professor of Design and Computational Art at Concordia University in Montreal. Her work and research deal primarily with soft computation: electronic textiles, responsive clothing as wearable technology, reactive materials, and squishy interfaces. She is a co-founder of International Fashion Machines in Boston, where she developed the first electronic ink wearable animated display and Electric Plaid, an addressable color-change textile. She received her Masters of Science from MIT for her work titled Computational Expressionism. She also worked with the Tangible Media Group of the MIT Media Lab on research projects such as musicBottles.

Francis Reed will soon be graduating from Concordia University's intensive program in Computer Science, with a major in Digital Image/Sound and the Fine Arts. Previously, he completed a three year technical DEC in Computer Science, and worked in a small design firm, which sparked his interest in digital media and motivated him to become an active participant in the creation of new media and its culture.

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Inhabitable Skins
Dream Team #2: Tania Fraga, Kathryn Saunders, Russell Taylor, David Wishart

In this team Nano Home project, four team participants split up into two groups to work on distinct but related concepts related to the possibility of fluid, intelligent fabrics and mobile, living architectures: in other words, Inhabitable Skins.

Nanoderm: Kathryn Saunders + David Wishart
Projects are processes. In our process we were interested in extending the boundaries of architectural possibility by establishing connections with real world science. Guided by member scientist David Wishart, the Nanoderm project is a reworking of existing scientific breakthroughs combined with a dose of artistic liberty. First, we generated hybridizations of science and form, mapping out the specificity and complexities of each strategy. We came up with five scenarios, of which Nanoderm is only the first. We hope to continue with the other four possibilities in the future, in other venues.

Nanoderm presents an alternative paradigm of creative human inhabitation: a new design ecology in which nanotech embedded in the skin becomes an intelligent interface, enclosure, guardian, and fashion statement. Central to this nanobionetwork is the Nanoderm chip. Implanted at the base of the neck, the chip is a specially designed micro-electroencephalogram (EEG) that detects and interprets brain wave activity. The Nanoderm chip then amplifies these signals and transmits them to the dermis (skin) via embedded nanofibre tattoos. These tattoos, which can be elegantly traced across the body, emit low voltage impulses that organize a nanofilm on the surface of the body into a "skin" of various shapes, colours, thickness, and opacities: in other words, "Nanoderm clothing". Different kinds of nanofilms can be applied to the body, each of which would respond differently to internal or external stimuli (body heat, internal/external electric fields, magnetic fields) to generate new inhabitable skins.

Architectural enclosures begin as small portable balls filled with fluid and the same protein-like nanoparticles used to create Nanoderm clothing. When placed on the ground and heated, these balls expand their size hundredfold, creating adaptive or responsive enclosures that interact and respond to the inhabitants, or with other Nanoderm buildings. The result is a design ecology in which nature moves away from its traditional conception as separate from the cultural enclosure and becomes part of the logical landscape of the nanobionetwork. Inside, programmatic elements such as the "responsive surface" (inspired by Tania Fraga/Russell Taylor), and information such as memory, thoughts, and emotions are organized and delivered by three interrelated embedded intelligence systems: visual, physical, and electrical (thought) processes. Defined more by the specifications of the new nanobionetwork, skin takes on new cultural and symbolic meanings: as a generative component of the new "design ecology".

Fluid Cloth: Tania Fraga + Russell Taylor
Fluid Cloth is a first step toward building a nomadic, mutable, wearable shell. The project is an installation featuring a physical surface which uses a nano material - nitinol - integrated with a natural rubber fabric produced by small communities from the Amazon region, the production and sale of which helps the communities to survive economically while preserving their environment. The rubber surface answers to computer stimuli: the nitinol wires (a metallic memory shape alloy) react to electricity, changing their configuration according to variations in current, and thus changing the shape of the fabric in which they are embedded. The principle long term goal underpinning the Fluid Cloth project is to build a tent-like adaptive home based upon the organic shapes of armadillos and turtle shells - mobile houses which fold and unfold into different configurations, and therefore adapt to different situations. Although the building of such structures will represent the cutting edge of scientific research, the process should also follow principles associated with sustainability, such as:

1) The use of renewable materials and sources of energy such as solar radiation, wind, waves, and tides.

2) The transformation of human energy and wastes into useful energy producing electricity, bio-gas, and fertilizers.

3) The development of procedures for energy saving and recycling.

4) Respect for the knowledge, wisdom, and culture of local communities.

5) The use of intelligent, affective computer systems (see: Rosalind Picard, Affective Computing, USA: MIT Press, 2000) which will interact, learn, and adjust themselves to user idiosyncrasies and the environment, tuning into climate, local urban services, cultural frameworks, or other materials and goods.

Fluid Cloth intends to create a transitional step, establishing a foundation strategy for the creation of mobile, mutable, responsive shelters. It forms a part of the larger Responsive Surfaces project created by Tania Fraga, [http://planeta.terra.com.br/arte/lvpa2002/ResponsiveSurface], which searches for new functional metaphors to describe responsive materials created by nanotechnologies.

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Mind Over Kitchen
Dream Team #3: Myron Campbell, Ruth West, Gregor Wolbring

The Future of Thought Controlled Personal Environments
Our vision of a nanotech dream home features a brain-house interface that allows its inhabitants to accomplish everyday tasks through thought control. In this scenario people would interact with and control their personal environment independent of their varied abilities related to seeing, hearing, speaking, and mode or degree of mobility. Ongoing research in brain-machine interfaces coupled with the interdisciplinary approach of NBIC (the convergence of nanotechnology, biotechnology, informatics, and cognitive science) would allow the development of brain-machine interfaces that would interconnect us with our living spaces and environment. As a nanotech dream-home scenario, this is linked to the concept of "universal design" and the goal of ensuring that the nanotech dream home is accessible equally to all people. It also looks at the inherent ethical issues that arise in such an application of NBIC technologies in personal environments, as well as in the world at large.

As research progresses in the realm of brain-machine interfaces, nanotechnology, and NBIC, we must engage both the great promise that these emerging technologies offer for enhancing our lives, and the changes they will bring to long held beliefs, definitions of what it means to be human, and the ethical dimensions of our application of knowledge and technology development.

How will our definition of "human being-ness" change as a result of our ability to interact with our environments without the need for certain kinds of embodiment? What would it mean for our identity if we were able to enhance our environment, and ourselves, by using NBIC to manipulate our kitchen, accomplishing daily tasks such as opening the fridge, running the blender, or turning the faucet on or off through thought alone? Would each of us become a part of our home? Would the home then become an extension of our embodiment? If such ease of use in our living environments conferred a significant advantage, would access be guaranteed to all, or would market forces take precedence in the distribution of this technology throughout society? Who would have access to the information that your home would "know" about you? Who, other than the direct inhabitants of your home, would have access to the brain-home interface, and what kind of information could they communicate to you through it? As these questions and many more arise, a rigorous social and ethical debate about the implications of this emerging technology will be required.

To view a simple text version of the Mind Over Kitchen Flash interactive, click here. This translation of the Flash content was composed by Gregor Wolbring, and is intended to make the imaginative content of this interactive equally accessible for all users.

Research Links
Brain-Machine Interfaces
http://wetware.hjalli.com/000124.shtml
www.popsci.com/popsci/medicine/article/0,12543,576464,00.html (link no longer active)
http://www.cyberkineticsinc.com

Thought-Controlled Prosthetics
[http://www.whitaker.org/news/schwartz.html]
DARPA To Support Development Of Human Brain-Machine Interface
[www.dukenews.duke.edu/news/newsreleaseb4e9.html]

Brain implant may restore memory
[www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,912940,00.html]

World's first brain prosthesis
[www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99993488]

International Centre for Bioethics, Culture and Disability
[www.bioethicsanddisability.org/transhumanism.html]

Human Assisted Neural Devices
[http://www.darpa.mil/dso/thrust/biosci/brainmi.html (link no longer active)]

Monkey's brain signals control "third arm"
[www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99994262]

Brains can have wireless upgrades
[http://web.zdnet.com.au/techcentre/wireless/news/story/0,2000050944,20278912,00.htm]

The Team
Myron Campbell is HorizonZero's resident Graphic Designer. He has worked in many areas of new media and fine arts, and is attracted to the fusion of these two realms. His online portfolio can be viewed at www.notsosimpleton.com

Ruth West is a lecturer at the Department of Design / Media Arts at UCLA. An artist with a background in molecular genetics research, her work explores the relationship between genetics and culture within the wider framework of the interrelationships between artistic and scientific practice. She is founder of in silico v1.0, an art-science collaborative, and is also an Associate Researcher at the UCSD Center for Research in Computing and the Arts. See her Web site for further details. [www.viewingspace.com]

Gregor Wolbring is a biochemist and Adjunct Assistant Professor of bioethics at the University of Calgary and University of Alberta, and an executive board member of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO. He is the founder and Executive Director of the International Centre for Bioethics, Culture, and Disability (www.bioethicsanddisability.org).

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Kyo's Dream
Dream Team #4: Yvonne Caravia, Brian Fisher, Kathleen Goonan, Sha Xin Wei

Love in the Age of Technology
Sha Xin Wei, Brian Fisher, and Kathleen Goonan spent several weeks communicating with one another about this project before it was solidified. We decided that our Nano Home of the Future project narrative would portray a future in which homes, as conscious entities in their own right, could gain legal possession of their inhabitants - not only their DNA, but their intellectual, artistic, and emotional abilities. In short, all of the things that made them human. They could then eject the original inhabitants and seek others, build their own community of human-based information, and eventually even relate with other nanohomes.

Kathleen simplified the original story and translated it into text and a series of images, which she drew, photographed, and emailed to the various participants. Brian contacted musicians Linda Kaastra and Sachiyo Takahashi to play the Tooka (a digital wind instrument played collaboratively by two people breathing into either end), and Xin Wei invited some of the students in his lab (Yvonne Caravia and Chetan Bagga, Topological Media Lab: http://topologicalmedia.net) to help translate the story into this medium.

The Team
Yvonne Caravia is a Master's student in the Information Design and Technology program at Georgia Tech. She has a BFA in printmaking from the University of Michigan, with an emphasis on digital imaging applications. Her artistic research for the Topological Media Lab, under Professor Sha Xin Wei, includes wearables, active fabrics, and body-based media in the context of ritual performance.

Brian Fisher is the Associate Director of the University of British Columbia Media and Graphics Interdisciplinary Centre (UBC MAGIC). His research explores the co-evolution of human perceptual, cognitive, and collaborative abilities and interactive technologies. This work integrates Cognitive Science, engineering, and business methods. The goal is to develop both an applied science of human interaction with information technology, and a companion reflective design method to support design practitioners.

Kathleen Ann Goonan (www.goonan.com) has published five science fiction novels (including her Nanotech Quartet) and over twenty-four stories in the United States and internationally. She travels and gives lectures on the ethical and social implications of nanotechnology. Her latest novel Light Music is presently short-listed for the Nebula Award.

Sha Xin Wei creates experimental performance installations using computational media that respond to gesture and movement. Dr. Sha teaches critical studies of technology and media at Georgia Tech and directs the Topological Media Lab, an atelier-laboratory exploring gesture, agency, and materiality from phenomenological and computational perspectives. In 1997 Sha co-founded Sponge.org, an art research collective dedicated to making public experiments in "felt meaning and desire".

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DATA: Transfers
Dream Team #5: AElab

Imaging Underworlds
DATA: Transfers is an extension of our current research on the power of the image and its representation at different scales of perception, with project funding from The Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science and Technology. We have now finished an artist residency at the Nanolab belonging to McGill University's Chemistry Department (Dr. Bruce Lennox, Chair and Director), where we had the assistance of Vicki Meli, a PhD student. A relationship blossomed over the eight month residency period with both scientists, which led to discussions about issues around imaging, education, ethics, ecology, and the relationship between art and science. The lab gave us access to various digital micro and nano imaging technologies, including the SEM (Scanning Electron Microscope), AFM (Atomic Force Microscope), and STM (Scanning Tunneling Microscope), with which we were able to view physical samples and subsequently record them as 2D files, 3D mappings of surfaces, and live video output.

Our project for HorizonZero is closely related to the interfaces between nano and digital technologies, with their mirrored modes of data visualization. We are exploring the analog space between nano/micro structures and molecular assembly, various imaging processes and a hyper-awareness and observation of daily moments and phenomena. These elements act as a link between the constructive/deconstructive natural world and constructed/deconstructed human-made technological world. Within these paradigms appears the recognition of ubiquitous transfers and movement of energy, with growth and entropy as deep equalizers.

For this adaptation, we consider that architecture is implicit in the work. Our conception of a "nano dream home" emerges from an ideal situation where contemplation of reality and direct cognition of phenomena positions us in space and time, the observation of nature brings us to a point of actualization. Home is where the heart is: to feel at home is a sensation of being at home inside the moment - a moment when we realize the deep, rhizomatic relationship between matter and mind, and where we can take action based on a conscious exchange with our environment, an underlying principle of eco/green thinking. Materials research toward energy conservation is one of the most promising venues of nanotech.

Inside the "home", our project exists within its foundations, under the earth, the "underworld", inside the composition of the walls, looking into materials, windows, and objects, inside the molecular and energy exchange of daily life...

Our space is structured through the progression of a line forming grid-like structures into a grey open field. This metaphor of "reading" and "unfolding" is analogous to the way the AFM microscope or any type of analog or digital reading functions, through an x/y/z node that is constantly updated, afresh.

Samples viewed in this version of the project include: carbon paper, crystallized plaster of Paris, spider web, HOPG (Highly Ordered Pyrolytic Graphite), dragonfly wing, copper screw, packing foam.

Text excerpts are from James Joyce's novel The Dead.

The Team
In the summer of 1996, AE was initiated as a research unit by electronic musician and engineer Stéphane Claude and new media artist Gisèle Trudel, with the regular participation of other collaborators. AE consolidates their interest for an ecological awareness in the use of technology, as echoed in the arts and sciences. Both artists live and work in Montreal, where he works as an audio coordinator and consultant (Oboro) and she is a professor of new media (University of Québec at Montréal). The name AElab refers to their presentation and publication projects which have been shown internationally. For more information about AElab history and projects, visit www.aelab.com.

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Personal Nomadic Home
Dream Team #6: Mary Flanagan, tiltfactor Design Group

Freedom of Movement
The Personal Nomadic Home (PNH) and its community ideals rest in the notion that freedom of movement would be the ultimate value in a future where nanotechnology allows us to disassemble and reassemble spatial and social structures of power. Our vision is pragmatic and transformative, fostering freedom of movement, self-sustainability, and freedom from traditional race and class structures.

In instances when society fails to provide our necessities, we have the option of terminating our attachment in favor of more promising relationships. "The ordering of space in buildings is really about the orderly relations between people...architecture determines to a substantial extent the degree to which we become automatically aware of others, both those who live nearby and strangers." (Bill Hillier) Luxury housing, public housing, section 8, HUD homes, and secluded mansions on acres of green lawn are the current spatial narratives with which the public is controlled and understood. If we could live in intentional, planned communities while retaining privacy and freedom of movement, then the quality of life would improve for all.

The PNH reorganizes this space by creating pre-fabricated modular housing that can be built to suit personal values and identities, while recreating the context of spatial narrative and geographic inequality. The very ability to be mobile gives everyone the self-determination to move away from preordained notions of race and class, and to construct their own new realities.

It can be argued that humans are not inherently selfish: they have an altruistic attitude toward those with whom they identify. Categorizations such as race, creed, ability, or sex become irrelevant, and the simple theory remains: Locke's argument that we are born with a tabula rosa. Blurred boundaries transgress many fixed categories, paving the way for a society void of "I".

This notion of rejecting a fixed subject is echoed in Deleuze and Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus, which argues against the idea of a stable, immobile self. The ego should be eliminated in favor of an unregulating, desiring consciousness whose goal is to develop and nourish an elected society. By choosing our society, and in effect having that society choose us (as witnessed in modern condo and co-op regulations), we have a limited responsibility to our immediate contemporaries. As we become more nomadic, process and project change, economic geography becomes economy of life, and central systems of power weaken.

As Deleuze suggests, nomadicism is evident in, perhaps even essential to the formation of consciousness. By redefining immanence, the decentralized material embodiment of the subject, we explore notions of complexity, dislocation, movement, and becoming. Stateless. Displaced. Void of attachment, this introduces a new wave of being, learning, living, and loving absent of roots and fixation.

Welcome to the web of potential, the birth of constant movement and transformation.

The Team
The mission of tiltfactor is to promote research, scholarship, and creative work centering around computer gaming and digital culture, with an emphasis on the social impact of new technologies. Located at Hunter College, New York, the group takes an activist approach to contemporary new media design. Of particular importance to the researchers are game design, educational software design, and the role of gender and computer technology. For further information, see www.tiltfactor.org.

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