From Prototype to Phenotype
More than ever, design research and a thorough understanding of the human body will be crucial. Personas and archetypes give us insight into how individuals with their unique personalities and body compositions might adapt and use their new sense or skill. Without proper user testing, who knows what the social implications might be? We will need to find methods to prototype these experiences, but much of the problem lies in our lack of knowledge in how the human brain works. We need to map out what encodings the brain likes for these devices, not unlike anthropometry maps out our ergonomic compositions.
Placement on the body and how the body moves is crucial. For the VEST, NeoSensory strategically chose the chest and torso because of the underutilized nerve endings at those specific locations. Although mine did migrate, RFID chips are placed in that soft tissue between the thumb and index finger.
User interfaces have traditionally been designed to be understood, not interpreted, but this will change as bodyhacking becomes more mainstream. The same app or implant could morph according to your individual needs using intelligent systems and anticipatory design. However, it will be crucial for us to avoid and educate about dark patterns – those that trick users into doing something they did not intend, like purchasing or sharing something. Rather, we need to emphasize decision making and allow users agency in these delicate situations.
So, how do we design for these new senses in an ethical, sustainable and safe manner? There are things we can do to prepare us with the skills of the future today. Namely, we can integrate intersecting disciplines and maintain rigor in the scientific method of design research. As a dematerialization of design increasingly complements the traditional notion of design, we are approaching a new design paradigm.
Looking forward to when bodyhacking becomes more mainstream, designers need to emphasize and consider sociological consequences and neuroscience as a biological medium early in the design process. Hence, seeing the object as phenotype rather than prototype allows for a shift in attention from the art of construction to the art of use. Truly, designers are increasingly becoming the social engineers of life.