Need to Know
26 : 06 : 18

26.06.2018 Material Futures : Central Saint Martins : Technology

At the CSM Material Futures graduate show, designers combined the worlds of craft, science and technology to anticipate our future needs, desires and challenges for the 21st century.

1. Fulfilling an AI assistant’s human dream

GOGO’S DREAM - A letter to Stevie Wonder, Davide Piscitelli

At this year’s show, many designers presented concepts and scenarios that explored our complex and sometimes absurd relationship with technology. For his project, GOGO’s Dream, Davide Piscitelli adopted a satirical approach to this subject, with the aim of fulfilling the dream of a personal intelligent assistant (PIA).

After the AI device shared its dream to sing with the famous singer Stevie Wonder, Piscitelli enlisted the help of experts and musicians to make this human-like dream a reality. To perform the duet, the designer created a modified version of a Google Home device which, after much development, was able to respond to a human singing with corresponding lyrics.

The project was designed to address the belief that if something is more human-like, it is more intelligent. Exploring the absurdity of this statement, Piscitelli highlights the social, ethical and moral implications of humankind’s mass adoption of these devices.

2. Exploring the future of space travel

2030: Space Oddity by Andy Dongyoung Kim 2030: Space Oddity by Andy Dongyoung Kim
2030: Space Oddity by Andy Dongyoung Kim 2030: Space Oddity by Andy Dongyoung Kim

With the opening of the world’s first commercial space station due in 2020, the once-distant notion of space tourism is fast becoming a reality. At this year’s Material Futures show, designer Andy Dongyoung Kim developed a series of prototypes to communicate the physical limitations of a journey to space.

Prolonged exposure to zero gravity can lead to detrimental effects on the human body, in particular the skeleton. Kim’s designs offer the wearer a better understanding of space travel’s impact on the body, conveying the reality of what to expect when embarking on this journey. For more on how an increased consumer interest in space travel and tourism is affecting the design industry, see our Space-age Materials microtrend.

3. A subconscious shopping experience

Louize Harries Robotham’s conceptual project seeks to fuel public conversation about the use of neuromarketing in an age already driven by mass consumption.

My First Subconscious Shopper features an EEG headset that is capable of identifying a child’s shopping preferences. Such EEG devices have their origins in medical diagnosis, but have recently been brought into practice for market research purposes. In an era of non-stop distraction, companies are using this technology in an attempt to understand how to capture consumers’ attention. Using a combination of tools, the device reads neural activity in children, in response to various marketing stimuli.

While injecting fun into the shopping experience, the project poses questions about the risks and benefits of neuromarketing, in particular where children are the focus. Should we have limits on how far neuromarketing can – or should – go?

My First Subconscious Shopping, Louize Harries My First Subconscious Shopping, Louize Harries

4. Developing hybrid materials from microbes

This is Grown, Jen Keane, photography by Tom Mannion This is Grown, Jen Keane, photography by Tom Mannion
This is Grown, Jen Keane, photography by Adam Toth This is Grown, Jen Keane, photography by Adam Toth
This is Grown, Jen Keane, photography by Jen Keane This is Grown, Jen Keane, photography by Jen Keane

The exploration of biotechnology in material design was also prominent at this year’s show. Jen Keane examines how microbes such as bacteria and yeast can be used to develop a new generation of hybrid materials. Her project, This is Grown, manipulates the growing process of k.rhaeticus bacteria to form a new type of microbial weaving. The resulting material is strong, lightweight and potentially customisable, with Keane developing a trainer prototype from the material.

As humankind’s impact on the environment intensifies, eco-conscious fashion brands are exploring bio and synthetic materials as more sustainable alternatives. However, as innovation in field continues, Jen Keane questions whether we are collaborating with nature or controlling it. For more on the ethics of lab-grown materials, read our interview with designer Christina Haxholm.

5. Questioning the consequences of humanoid robots

Made in our Image: Love and Cruelty with Robots by Nina Cutler Made in our Image: Love and Cruelty with Robots by Nina Cutler
Made in our image: Love and Cruelty with robots, Nina Cutler Made in our image: Love and Cruelty with robots, Nina Cutler

As the concept of the nuclear family becomes increasingly outdated, technology is not only helping to run the household, but becoming part of it. Through her project Made in our Image, Nina Cutler examines whether the act of humanising robots in our day-to-day lives will have a disrupting effect on society.

The artist created Tonii, a fictional humanoid robot that was placed in scenes that explored the concepts of love and cruelty. Love observes the effects of over-empathising with a robot and subsequent feelings of loneliness, trust and replacement. Cruelty, on the other hand, communicates a negative relationship between man and robot through the impact of dehumanisation.

Although consumers are increasingly showing a willingness to accept domestic robots as social entities rather than autonomous devices, Cutler’s project addresses the effects this could have on our relationships with one another, as well as these compliant ‘beings’.

6. Thought-Starter: The benefits of biodesign

Charles Johnson, Puma’s global director of innovation, discusses how biodesign could be used to upgrade future athletic materials, detailing the brand’s recent collaboration with MIT Design Lab.

‘We can talk about a chemical angle in biodesign, but to make it more contextual and easy to understand, we should think of it as wearable technology. Today, we know wearable technology as digital data, but biodesign is the future beyond digital wearables. It will enable us to create products that have an intuition of their own. They will adapt to the users – in this case, athletes,’ explains Johnson.

Collaborating with MIT to use its expertise, technology, vision and future thinking, Puma is developing its vision of the future of sporting goods that think and act seamlessly on behalf of athletes.

‘The truth is, micro-organisms are all around us. We already interact with them on a daily basis. They’re not overt – we don’t see them, but they’re there. I think one aspect of this process is to educate consumers that there are good bacteria that do good things for you. The other aspect is that younger generations will be more open to these kinds of new technologies. It’s just a very new area to explore for sportswear.’

Read the full interview here.

Biodesign by Puma and MIT Design Lab Biodesign by Puma and MIT Design Lab