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Smart product category
NeoTouch

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NeoTouch is a speculative design project envisioning the future of haptic technology for human interaction through digital touch. Rooted in contemporary scientific research, the project speculates on a future ‘data-body’ that completely overlaps with the physical body. Beyond imagining the technical development and the precise functionality of the device, NeoTouch uses a near-future narrative to highlight very current questions around social and psychological repercussions of technological innovation on our lives and society as a whole. The project raises questions about consent and agency, privacy, digital safety, gender, adolescence, digital literacy and online harassment. These issues are amplified by imagining a technology that maps digital interactions onto and into the physical body.

The design process included a series of exploratory experiments, an essay, and a series of short films exploring the social and ethical implications. This process of research through design led to the physical and conceptual design of the ‘provocatype’ – a term coined by Cennydd Bowles to describe a speculative prototype that aims to spark a conversation.
The hypothetical technology NeoTouch enables haptic interaction through a brain-computer interface that simulates the experience of touching and being touched by stimulating the relevant brain areas. A transducer attaches to the skin behind the ear and connects wirelessly to a network
of nano-electronics in the brain.
The speculative device, in turn, becomes a hypothetical object at the heart of a critical future scenario exploring the way we interact and connect. This critical narrative takes the form of a short film set in a near future where NeoTouch has been accepted widely in society and digital touch has become normality, integrated into everyday life. It portrays what can go wrong when technology
and our use of it changes our social norms to affect experiences of intimacy and interpersonal
boundaries.

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NeoTouch questions how the merge of technology with our bodies could affect our physical safety. The project explores the limits of seamlessly integrated technology to call for a more reflected, ethical creation and critical, conscious adoption. It aims to raise questions around our relationships to and through technology. Who has access to my body? What data is stored and transmitted? Will we have to protect our bodies from digital attacks? How would this impact our physical interactions? And how could this haptic technology affect our perceptions and conception of privacy and intimacy?

“We need moral imagination: the ability to dream up and morally assess a range of future scenarios.”; (C. Bowles, Future Ethics)

This project was created at the Interactive Architecture Lab under supervision of Fiona Zisch and
Alexander Whitley.

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