CIP: Sensory Design: Beyond Limits

Another core project for Creative Industry Practice was called Sensory Design: Beyond Limits. The idea was for us to reimagine a body part or sensory organ or something like that to enhance human abilities beyond the norm. I immediately thought of the bad guy from Wild Wild West, the western with Will Smith in it from the 90s. The bad guy had no legs. Well actually, he had 4 legs, since he was a mad inventor who had a wheelchair which had 4 spider-like legs. I also thought of the video game series Deus Ex, which is set in the near(ish) future where one can augment oneself with cybernetics in the same way one can undergo plastic surgery now.

Wild Wild West with Will Smith and Kenneth Branagh.
Wild Wild West with Will Smith and Kenneth Branagh.

I was intending that my enhancements be surreal and intimidating, like those spider legs. One of my first ideas was some kind of mask that would incorporate hearing aids and eye enhancements to help people who are deaf and/or blind. I wanted it to look like some cross between an Iron maiden and a serial killer’s hockey mask. Unfortunately, in conceptualising the idea, the mask didn’t really need to cover the nose or mouth at all. It’s very interesting to note the importance of getting the idea out of your head and into the real world and seeing if it survives the process.

'When Captain America throws his mighty shield!' Not very intimidating mask which allows the deaf to hear and the blind to see.
‘When Captain America throws his mighty shield!’ Not very intimidating mask which allows the deaf to hear and the blind to see.

Thinking back to the spider legs, I liked the idea of human modifications conceived by a computer. Or perhaps, simply a rational mind unhindered by conventional aesthetics. Human beings have been functionally the same for thousands if not millions of years, so how about some upgrades? looking at some of the most successful examples in the natural world, how about a man with spider legs, a chameleon’s eyes, a dog’s sense of smell and so on.

Sketch book page with my chameleon eyes. They offer a good mix of practicality and looking downright ridiculous.  Some people used to think Batman looked ridiculous too. Then he made Hollywood all that money...
Sketch book page with my chameleon eyes. They offer a good mix of practicality and looking downright ridiculous. Some people used to think Batman looked ridiculous too. Then he made Hollywood all that money…

I then researched those specific examples and started thinking about the benefits one would get from those abilities; who would actually fund research and development and who would find real world applications for them? If history has taught us anything, it’s that nothing speeds up technological advancement like a good war (which is any oxymoron, to be sure). Or to put it another way, if you’re looking for the most advanced technology, try looking at the military. Any sensory enhancement could prove exceptionally useful to a small crack-team of military commandoes deep behind enemy lines on a covert mission. Enhanced eyesight would allow for more accurate tactical observation and target acquisition over longer distances, enhanced smell could help with bomb detection, identification and disposal and enhanced hearing: to avoiding patrols, gather more intelligence and so on.

Having considered my content, it was time to pick a form it should take. We were given a list of options to choose from including several posters, some sort of sculpture, a short film or something else. I decided to go with the posters since they were far bigger than I would have liked them to be, but overcoming the logistical challenge of getting them made would prove useful in the long run.

In the next post I will discuss the poster designs. See you then.

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