If our eyes are the windows to the soul, are the ears opaque and impassive? Or is it possible those flexible pieces of cartilage could also take an active role in communicating our thoughts and feelings? Can they also express opinions?
PHUB OFF! by Hollie Chan explores "phubbing", the social phenomenon where people ignore others to pay attention to their phone; it shows voices passing through their heads without getting absorbed.
Using newly developed 3D ear scan technology, students in the School of Industrial Design at the Georgia Institute of Technology investigated this proposition. The scan technology allows designers for the first time to see into the hidden corners and canals of the inner ear. Designers can quickly create high-resolution 3D scan files of the ears, inside and out, and 3D print in an exact life-size copy. Until now, this technology has been used to create custom hearable products for entertainment, bio monitoring, and hearing protection.
Roger Ball, Director of the Body Scan Lab and also a professor in the School of Industrial Design, devised a project that investigates the creative potential for this new technology and pushes the boundaries of hearables design.
"I am bored by the current design approach of cramming as many sensors as possible into the ear cavity and calling that a design," said Ball. "When you take this sensor-driven approach, the designer's main challenge becomes creating the least ugly object possible. We flipped the process by starting with the user and hoping our investigations will inspire creativity in materials and sensor technology." Ball challenged his students with creating wearable ear art that also made a social statement.
Bird Shit by Jane Neiswander calls attention to the feeding frenzy of fake news in today's media. Tsehay by Wengelawit Alemayehu. "People determine others' strength and courage by their physical appearance. But rarely does a person's spirit match its costume. We show our true worth when nothing is left but our instinct" Pink is the New Red by Julia Brooks compares mid-century misogyny to the feminist movement of today. This pink represents the millions of participants at the Women's March in Washington DC on January 21, 2017.
Student Caitlin Schumacher, who made a statement about women's choices and the importance of body autonomy in her piece "Maternal Instinct," enjoyed the art aspect of the assignment. "It was really fun to be an artist for a little while, instead of a designer. Coming out of the mindset where form and function are always hand in hand, and being able to create something just because it was important to me," she said.
Beyond the art focus, Ball said "on the functional side it had to attach to the body using only the interior shape of the ear concha and canal. To explain their individual approach, each student had to create a 30-second video for sharing on a mobile phone and posting on social media."
Students researched art movements rich in social commentary: Surrealism, Dadaism, and Pop Art for inspiration in developing their own artistic statement. They posted their research on a Pinterest board for sharing with friends and classmates.
Working with research assistants in the Body Scan Lab, the students experimented with different scan technologies to develop their ideas. Each student created a Balance project folder to share the story of the development of the project. Finally, each student had to a create 3D-printed display for the design exhibition.
18 student works were displayed.
Julia Brooks, who portrayed the changing role of women in society in her piece, "Pink is the New Red," said, "The project addresses a challenge: To design at the cutting edge of both 3D scanning technology and popular culture. This duality brought the projects interest and meaning."
Ball's assignment showed a signature aspect of education at Georgia Tech and the teaching agenda of the School of Industrial Design's in that the final projects were rich in unique and creative solutions. Ball said, "I was surprised how successful the projects were. (Georgia Tech) ID students are known for their technical expertise and strong industrial design skills but this assignment pushed them into new arenas. I wasn't sure how they would react to an open-ended art project, but the results demonstrate their creativity is equally as strong as their technical skills."
The Ear Art Exhibition, hosted by the Stubbins Gallery in the College of Design, opened to the public on Feb. 13, 2017. Visitors from international universities, local public schools, and industry were amused and amazed by the creativity and thoughtfulness of the students' work.
If you missed the first The Ear Art exhibition, you can see it over the summer at the following venues:
· Launchpad+, May 4-15, 2017, Georgia Institute of Technology, College of Design, School of Industrial Design, Atlanta, GA
· Design Economy Expo, June 8-11, 2017, Atlanta Decorative Art Center (ADAC), 351 Peachtree Hills Ave., #403, Atlanta, GA 30305.
· Recent Work, June 15 -July 31, 2017, Georgia Institute of Technology, College of Design, Stubbins Gallery.
About Georgia Tech
The School of Industrial Design at Georgia Tech takes full advantage of the fact that the university is a Tier 1 research institute. They teach students, from undergraduate to doctoral, to integrate the technologies and engineering expertise surrounding them with user- centered design.
Georgia Tech believes design operates best in collaboration. Students and faculty are part of a top-ten ranked university community, which cultivates the perfect environment for cross-discipline projects. The students have access to more than 100 research centers, labs, and facilities across campus, including the College of Design's 13,000–square–foot fabrication shop.