Augmented Senses

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The Augmented Senses studio is investigating the possibilities of designing new human senses or augmenting ones which already exist. We use technology as a medium to enable an expanded perception of reality with the intention of effectively augmenting the way we empathize with our environment.

What we experience as reality is dictated by the sensory inputs we are equipped with: touch, smell, vision, sound, taste. Every human interaction, every human endeavor, everything that humanity has achieved and caused as a species has been enabled by using these senses to navigate our environment. Other species have evolved similar senses, but with slight variations that relate to their environment. Generally, vision in animals is driven through the reaction of light in color receptors. Humans typically have three kinds of color receptors while the Mantis Shrimp has 12. This allows Mantis Shrimp to see multispectral images and polarized light, which we could say provides a dramatically different way to see the world. Other species have even evolved other senses to deal with their particular environment. For example, bees have positively charged mechanoreceptor hairs in their legs which help them navigate to negatively charged flowers. This means is that reality is much richer and dynamic than what we currently experience.

The Augmented Senses agenda seeks proposals for systems and their related consequences which augment our senses or give us new senses by which we can experience and describe reality. Such systems could also be considered to give senses to otherwise inanimate objects or other species. The theory behind this is simple: sense what we can not already sense in order to widen our definition of reality. By widening our definition of reality we can increase the potential to empathise with not just other humans, but perhaps other species and ecosystems?

Research Studio Objectives

  1. To augment an existing sense or invent an entirely new sense, enabled by physical computing.
  2. To experience and document this sense in such a manner that the consequences and benefits are discovered.
  3. Understand the nature of sensing, dealing with noise filtering and signal processing.
  4. Understand existing and developing sensing technology.
  5. To develop physical computing skills which can enable advanced sensory experiences and robust data communication protocols.
  6. To develop a wearable technology skill set which includes designing solutions which take into account the body morphology in relation to the technical specification.
  7. To understand working with the body and within the body. To understand 3D design with the body and the effects.
  8. To collect data and complete data analysis and visualization of the research and trial periods.

The Augmented Senses studio is part of the Advanced Interaction curriculumn in Master of Advanced Architecture at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain. The studio is taught by Elizabeth Bigger and Luis Fraguada, with support from Cristian Rizzuti.