A still of the project video showing two individuals with implanted antennas interacting on the sidewalk.
What if bodily attunement was could build stronger communities and relationships?  

OMNI

A Cyborg Technology

OMNI is a speculative futures video of an experience of two individuals who have chosen to undergo a body modification procedure in order to implant themselves with an artificial sense. When in proximity to others, and after a ritual of attunement, vibrations trigger at the respective frequency and flow throughout the receiver’s body, unlocking a sensation of embodied connection. Accompanying the video is a working prototype in which participants engage in the creation of ad-hoc proximal networks and real-time attunement via sound and light.

Role: Individual Studio Project
Timeline: 7 weeks
Advisors: Ben Hooker, Ben Borden, and Stephanie Marie Cedeño
Tools: Adafruit Feather nrf52840 Express, CircuitPython, Gravity Sketch, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, and laser cutter

Process

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"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"
- Arthur C. Clarke

The brief prompted us to design a technological something (e.g., wearable, device, tool, space, software, infrastructure) that gives me a special ability or superpower.

I interpreted the prompt of “superpower” as a transcendent force and I was reminded of the powers of Martin Luther King Jr. Through the power of his voice and presence, vibrations of sound and electromagnetism respectively, he motivated millions of people around the United States (and the world) to bring about a fundamental change in how people related to one another. He was able to turn concepts and values into direct and lasting action. In addition, I was inspired by the sense of intuition and how it can be a powerful force when one tunes into and becomes aware of it during moments of interaction and way-finding.

The idea further expanded into the concept of synchronicity/entanglement and entrainment that exists only when in proximity with others, as seen as large-scale rallies and protests.

From a technical standpoint, I found the Apple AirTag system with its use of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) as encompassing this type of phenomena. I developed a similar experience with a working prototype as way for participants to embody the kind of experience that I envisioned.

Studio Wall #1 shows specific inspiration on the form, experience and related scientific phenomena that drove the final project.
Studio Wall #2 shows the projects that I was inspired by, especially ones that related to fashion and wearable cyborg technology, with connections to the ones that related to the exact direction of my project and post-it notes.
A Mind Map for the synthesizing my project concept.
A storyboard of the final project video.
Part of my research included a trip to the top of Mt. Wilson, directly above the City of Pasadena, where I interviewed the site of a large antenna farm that transmits FM and TV signals across Los Angeles County.

I chose to interview the site from the perspective of sound as I was intrigued by how much information exists in a single location that is not directly detectable by the human sense, but requires a mediating device. The mediating device that I chose to listen to the signals originating from the antennas was a field recorder. From this interview, I learned about how close and in what direction that I needed to place myself in relation to the antenna in order to hear an audible sound. Also, the cloud cover obstructed my view of the basin (sight) yet the antennas signals are still able to reach great distances.
A VR sketch, created in Gravity Sketch, of the original antenna design, but unfortunately due to time constraints and costs, I pivoted away from a 3D model and created the antenna on a laser cutter.
The process of developing the working prototype required constant testing that it functioned properly as well as communicated with the other devices.

Documentation

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A short video demonstrating the experience and the implant on members of the community.
Antenna Design #1
The prop antennas are based off of real antenna designs but tweaked to represent the individual character of who chose to wear each antenna. Also, the forms were inspired by high fashion and insect antennae.
In this demonstration of the working prototype, there are two senders (left and right) and one receiver (center). The receiver attunes to the sender's behavior, light and frequency, that is nearest through the BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) protocol.
Working prototype device
One of the five devices created for viewers to participate in the process of creating an ad-hoc network based off of proximity (Bluetooth Low-Energy). The button (left) is used by the advertising device to switch between numerous frequencies (sound) and the associated colors. The receiving devices attunes to the frequency and color as it approaches the advertising device, but will lose the signal at a specific distance.

Consideration

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Throughout the project, I wondered how this concept might scale beyond a niche group. I envision this implanted, artificial sense as a technology in which social networks form based on proximity and strengthens according to time. In turn, personal information and bodily sensations selected for sharing could publicly avail and exchange between such individuals. Lastly, I wonder how people might be able to attune to nonhuman entities, such as objects, plants, animals, etc. From this standpoint, I foresee the expansion of human understanding and consciousness, as well as the decentralization of humanity. In addition, I foresee that implantable technology will not only be functional, like Neuralink, but also as a way to express one's individuality and sense of style, much like the futuristic designs of Iris van Herpen. Like customizing one's shoe color scheme, individuals will be able to modify the basic structure and coloring of one's antenna. Expanding on the idea of infrastructures of networking, I can envision the experience of individuals who have become attuned to other's being able to tunnel into another's POV (time and space). What might that mean for people's agency? How could this expands one's understanding of other's experience in the world?

Reflection

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I’m deeply captivated by this type of superpower as I’m actively cultivating my own community of people as I pursue a fundamentally different life path. As I navigate my uncertain and exciting future I must rely on a greater sense of intuition. In terms of the concept, I'm fascinated by the ineffable aspects of daily life that can only be experienced through presence and proximity.

During the making process I believe that I spent too much time on making the working prototype functional. Although it was a great learning experience, I could've spent more time on the designing supporting project elements such as a project image. In the future, I plan to create the original antenna design in Gravity Sketch into a 3D blender model. From there, I will attempt at preparing the model for 3D printing in order to become accustomed with the workflow.

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