Like Hannes Harms, Mimi Zou just completed her MA/MSc at RCA's Innovation Design Engineering program. Her project, "IRIS," is "a biometrics enabled camera controlled by your eye [that] understands who you are by looking at your iris signature, and lets you capture exactly what you see by tracking your eye." Thus, it has far more in common with, say, the "Nest" learning thermostat—to which it bears a curious resemblance— than IKEA's atavistic novelty point-and-shoot: Zou writes that "with this project, I hoped to bring about a refreshing new product experience, and challenge the existing interaction, typology and capabilities of cameras."
On one hand, the project can be construed as an exercise in biometrics, or "the sets of unique characteristics and traits possessed by every human being," which "could be utilized to positively identify individuals, and reflect their degrees of wellbeing over time. "
This project explores the immense impact of biometrics, as it becomes instilled as capability in consumer electronic products. By creating more intuitive user experiences, powerful profile management networks and next-generation content-sharing possibilities, biometric technologies create significant advantages for their enabled products. Together they create a future where everything—except identity—can be shared.
Alternately, it's a new approach to photography, an investigation into the very premise of photography (short of theory-laden discourse on subject/object dualism, authorship, etc.):
Iris derived from a personal interest in photography, and the observation that photo-taking is a ritual that celebrates the photographer's unique point of view. By recognizing who we are, Iris is able to characterize itself to fit the user. And by having experienced multiple users, it is able to learn about behavior and make intelligent functional decisions over time. I've designed this camera to pick up on the sophisticated cues given naturally by our bodies in the process of "seeing," with the hopes of creating an intuitive and delightful user experience that is at the same time uncompromising in performance.
Must-see video after the jump:
While the original concept lies at the intersection of two of Zou's abiding interests, the designer passed that point: she presented a working prototype at the RCA Show, which is on exhibit at the Darwin Building at RCA Kensington until July 1st.
The reactions I've received so far on Iris and its working prototype has been very encouraging. People coming to the RCA Show could try it out and take photos in real time with their eyes, with the photos waiting online once they are done. I hope this experience leaves them with fascination, and could inspire the future development of intelligent products.
And if "IRIS" is not yet at the point where it is seamlessly integrated into our experience of the empirical world—and the affective one we perceive—as in the video, it's only a matter of time before it becomes a reality. Zou concludes: "I think the day is not very far away, when we will finally be recognized by who we are instead of what we carry; and products will understand our identities in order to serve us better."