High-Tech Heartbeats

[quote]We’re born, we live for a brief instant, and we die. It’s been happening for a long time. Technology is not changing it much - if at all.[/quote]                                                                                                       - Steve Jobs

What if you could secrete perfume?  What if you literally had music playing inside your head?  This may happen sooner than you think.  In this second installation of our 3-part series on the “Techno-Body,” Sociology of Style looks at how technology and the body are merging. A recent NPR podcast explored the medical uses of the technology + body intersect, reporting on exciting new breakthroughs like spray-on skin.  And TED fellow Lucy McRae is the artist you may one day be able to thank for your ability to sweat perfume.  

http://www.ted.com/talks/lucy_mcrae_how_can_technology_transform_the_human_body.html The possibilities presented by implanting technology and extending the reach of the human body are still in their nascent stages.  But they bring up interesting questions around what it means to be “human.”  What happens to pheromones and biological attraction when we ingest this sort of scent-releasing pill?  What constitutes a “live” being? Perhaps, as Steve Jobs points out, technology doesn’t change the essential cycle of life, but it does drastically transform how we live, create, and connect during that brief instant.  Ollivier Dyens, in his book, Metal and Flesh, argues that “we hover on the boundary between life and nonlife, infectious and infecting, creator and destroyer…The living is a dynamic flow of information, and this flow also exists in the nonorganic realm.” This information flow between object and human is further facilitated by inventions like Microsoft’s PocketTouch research project, which is developing technology that would allow wearers to use their finger to “type” messages through their textiles – meaning, we may not even see the technology as we use it. And for all you masochists out there who simply can’t get cozy enough with your gadgets, consider the DIY techniques of one New Jersey tattoo/piercing artist who surgically implanted four magnets into his wrist in order to wear his iPod Nano as a watch. He calls it “iDermal,” and he’s able to walk and run without the device falling off. (See the video of the procedure here – but only if you dare.  It’s pretty graphic.) For those of you not yet ready to take the self-inflicted surgical implantation plunge, here are some more innocuous options for merging with your technology:

  •  The Burton Ronin Audio Stroll jacket has an amp and waterproof speakers embedded in the jacket to let you jam down the slopes (maybe not music inside your head – but pretty close).
  • Stores like TopShop are integrating virtual dressing room technology for its customers, and companies like Swivel allow consumers to try on clothes wherever they are. No more standing in line for a dressing room – let it come to you.
  • Directionally-challenged?  Never get lost again with the “No Place Like Home GPS Shoes.” The catch:  pre-programmed addresses only (so no veering off course).