One of the subjects that have interested me during this course is how machines can assist, supplement and possibly enhance our bodies. Normally when we think of machine therapy, we think about artificial organs such as the hearing aid.
Recently, however, Kelly Dobson has defined the term “machine therapy” as a new practice combining art, design, psychoanalysis, and engineering work in ways that access and reveal the vital, though often unnoticed, relevance of people’s interactions and relationships with machines.
For example, Sleep Sheep is a plush toy for babies that produces the sound of a mother’s heartbeat to get them to calm down or go to sleep.
Strangely, white noise is known to have therapeutic effects for those with insomnia. For $30, you can get a white-noise generator like the one below, or just go to www.simplynoise.com and get as much white noise as you want for free!
Here’s a device called the “Hug machine,” which was originally intended to calm autistic kids.
And some Japanese inventors made the ultimate device — something to comfort lonely singles:
Kelly Dobson, researcher and Ph.D candidate at MIT’s Media Lab, focuses her work on addressing the largely unnoticed aspects of machines to design devices that could help us therapeutically.
One of Dobson’s work is called Scream Body, which allows a person to vent his or her frustration into a sound- proof device.. The device records the scream, and he or she can “let it out” at a more convenient moment.
Omo is another one of Dobson’s inventions. It’s a rubber egg-shaped ball that matches the breathing of those interacting with it and often times leads patterns of breathing to help calm the person.
While machines can help us therapeutically, they can also enhance us and give us superhuman powers. Take Aimee Mullins, for example. Mullins was born with out fibulae in her legs and was told she would never walk again. Instead, with the help of prosthetic legs, she became an athlete, model and actor. What’s more, her prosthetic legs (she’s got a dozen pairs), she has redefined what the body can be. Her legs grant her superpowers — speed, beauty and an extra 6 inches in height.
Stelios Arkadiou has taken the relationship with machines on a whole new level. Also known as Stelarc, he invented a third arm that could be independently controlled using muscles in his abdomen and legs.
Recently, I wrote about how our minds and bodies are ill-designed to handle today’s modern life. I believe that we should start designing machines to look and feel less mechanical, and more like soft devices that might help assist and augment our human life.