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metaflore

2011

What if an organic interface could mirror your current emotions?

tl;dr

Metaflore relies on affective computing to create an organic interface of our emotions. It connects to a wrist band to collect our emotional variations and spray mist on lichen accordingly. The composite organism's texture reacts in real time to moist level to reflect a person's shifting emotions.

There is a place for a form of design that pushes the cultural and aesthetic potential and role of electronic products and services to its limits. Questions must be asked about what we actually need, about the way poetic moments can be intertwined with the everyday and not separated from it

critical design

Dunne and Raby created critical design, as an alternative design research method to the more common design thinking approach. It's purpose is to explore potential social impacts and poetic possibilities of our surrounding connected objects. It's specificity is to use fiction as a design probe. Metaflore and Wink (you should check this other project as well 😜) explore a possible near future when our surrounding objects start embeding emotion quantification technologies. These two fictions depict radically opposit future scenario. Wink's design fiction pushes the limits of self quantification and rationalized data centric feedback. Metaflore on the other hand explores how these technologies could help create poetic parenthesis in our everyday life.

Metaflore, explores a subtle and symbolic reflexive interface, keeping an open window for subjective interpretation.

This is achieved by hacking the quantified feedback loop with a living organism: lichen. Metaflore is an interface, an organic dashboard, of our affects.

how it works

Metaflore harnesses real time physiological data sent by a bio-sensor placed on your wrist, like the technologies developped by Empatica, an MIT affective computing lab spin-off. The sensor measures both heart rate and electrodermal activity, an indicator of the state of the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the human fight-or-flight response. The wristband measures the variation of your arousal level (excitement, engagement or stress related activations) as well as moments of deep relaxations during the day.

Metaflore receives this real-time data stream of your emotions and sprays mist accordingdly on lichen.

Lichen is a composite organism, part fungus, part algae with a very long lifespan. Its most interesting property is its reviviscence which allows lichen to adapt to alternating periods of desiccation and hydration. Following hydration, respiration totally recovered within seconds and photosynthesis within minutes.

When your level of stress peaks, it will block all humidification process during a certain amount of time. The lichen becomes pale and dry. As soon as you achieve a certain level of serenity, metaflore will start humidifying the lichen again, making it softer and greener. When you get back home, you can contemplate and touch metaflore to get an idea of the level of stress you where exposed to during the day.

It won't tell you what or who triggered your stress peak. It's just an invitation to reflect back on what happened on that particular day, who you met, what you did and how your body responded to those multiple events.

the design fiction

  • Characters: you and metaflore
  • Place: home
  • Main plot: during the day, the lichen is fed according to your emotional variations. You come back home from a long day out, take off your coat and check metaflore. What does it look like? How does it feel? What does this tells you about that person you met today? You pour yourself a glass of wine and look through the window. As your own reflection overlays the twilighting cityscape, you try to remember all those little details that moved, a little bit, your percepetion of people and the world...