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Mediated Body


Mediated Body is a physical suit that facilitates social play between a performer and a participant. When they touch each other’s bare skin, they both hear a complex sound pattern. This project is one of Mads Høbye’s PhD experiments.

Contact: Mads Høbye, PhD Student, MEDEA

Keywords: embodied interaction, interaction design.

Publication on Mediated Body: Touching a Stranger – Designing for Engaging Experience in Embodied Interaction. Published in International Journal of Design.

See also Høbye’s CHI ’12 publication Touchbox: Intriguing touch between strangers that deals with similar concepts.

Project description – (see video demos at the bottom of this post)
Mediated Body is a symbiotic system consisting of a human (the Performer) wearing custom-built technology (the Suit). The system offers a play session to a single Participant at a time. The role of the technology is to sense physical bare-skin connection between the Performer and the Participant, where the sensing yields analogue values in a range starting from a few centimeters from actual touch, via light touch, to full contact. The values are converted into a relatively complex soundscape which is played back in the headphones that both the Performer and the Participant wear.

Thus, from the Participant’s point of view, the Performer is a human theremin – a musical instrument that she can play by touching. However, due to the design of the system, the instrument can also play its player: When the Performer touches the Participant, the soundscape is affected in the same way.The headphones make the interactive soundscape a privately shared experience between Performer and Participant, and they also serve to limit surrounding sounds and thus make the experience more intimate and private to the two players.

The analogue nature of skin touch sensing, and the relatively complex functional relations between input (touch) and output (sound and light), together form an open and ambiguous interaction surface for the Participant. This enabled the Performer to enhance the experience with various performative techniques, inspired by and tailored to the situation and context of the play session.

Mediated Body: Berlin 2011 from Mads Hobye on Vimeo.

Mediated Body: Black Rock Desert 2010 from Mads Hobye on Vimeo.

Touchbox: Copenhagen 2011 from Mads Hobye on Vimeo.