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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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NeoTouch

NeoTouch

NeoTouch is a speculative design project envisioning the future of haptic technology in the form of a communication device that allows touch at a distance. The project imagines a fictitious device which is informed by contemporary scientific research.

Haptic interaction is here enabled through a brain-computer interface that simulates the experience of touching and being touched by stimulating 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 technology is sited in a near future in which current issues around digital privacy and physical safety converge and are consequently amplified.

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

Speculative design is used as a way to explore questions of consent, privacy, intimacy, and the perception of shared realities. Touch is a deeply instinctive and emotive way to interact with another person and NeoTouch focuses on meaningful tactile sensations and haptic impulses to create human-to-human connections. Rooted in speculative explorations, the project interrogates ethical and social aspects of digital communication. Although portraying a future device, NeoTouch is a reflective commentary on effects of digital technologies on our perception of self, identity, and interpersonal interactions. These issues are amplified when imagining a technology that maps digital interactions onto and into the physical body.

The design process included a series of exploratory experiments and the physical and conceptual design of the hypothetical technology, and a series of short films exploring social and ethical implications. The final design piece is a short film set in a future where the device (also known as NeoTouch) has been accepted widely in society and digital touch has become a normality, integrated into everyday life.

As a platform for debate around social and ethical issues and the influence of technology on human interactions, the film NeoTouch portrays what can go wrong when technology and our use of it affects experiences of intimacy and interpersonal boundaries. We need to ask ourselves, what are the social and ethical implications of the future of communication technology?

There is little hard proof even of how our current technology impacts our lives, minds and relationships. To predict their future effects is even harder. Consequently, new technologies are released onto the market with no clear understanding of the repercussions. Only one thing is for certain, we cannot escape technology. The project uses the power of storytelling. A story is able to express an idea, beyond bare facts, in order to spark a debate. A debate about tech, our choices and our behaviours as users and consumers. At the same time, this story is a critique of the industry’s uncritical approach to technological development. Scenarios such as this one aim to jolt people out of their naive trust in technology, the allure of its promise for the future, to create a wider space for imagination and shift in perspective.

The short film NeoTouch is currently aiming to be premiered at selected international film festivals. For more information contact Christine at hello@christinewurth.com

For more visit Christine’s website

Or read more about the project in the article below.

NeoTouch. An exploration of future haptic technology and the ethics and social norms surrounding it.