Growables is a speculative design study, by Erin Smith, into the future of bio-integrated wearable devices. The ultimate goal is to provoke conversation around this speculative future in terms of design, use, and possible implications.
Current innovations in the field of health and biofabrication have seen new abilities to 3D print skin and bone grafts from our own cells, record glucose levels through our contact lenses, and implant circuitry in our bodies using dis-solvable silk. Bacterial microbes outnumber our own cells by 10 to 1 – meaning that our survival is already dependent on our internal relationships with other organisms. It’s therefore not impossible to imagine organic living matter integrating into our wearable devices.
So how can we improve our health through bio-integrated wearables? By facilitating symbiotic relationships with organisms known to contain medicinal properties, we could effectively enhance our own body’s ability to self-heal. Creating a symbiotic relationship with our medicine could effectively remove the uncertainty and difficulties that come with appropriate dosing, and encourage our treatment to have an invested interest in our recovery. This piece invites discussion around curated symbiosis and bio-design’s place in modern health care.
Each piece in the series will address a significant health problem and propose an integration between emerging biotechnology futures, and existing research in mycological remedies. For the physical showcase, I’ve created a series of three custom displays paired with 3D-printed wooden wearables. Each display contains a cutaway window, highlighting the potential for physical growth of the pieces into the wearer. The design of these devices plays off the patterns of mycelial growth structures, and the current tropes of wearables in the health industry.
Taxcidum Growable (Cancer) – a living wearable necklace grown from known cancer-fighting mushrooms releases medication as needed into the body through symbiosis.
Glucocylium (Diabetes) – a living wearable that makes use of the nutrient sharing capacity of mycelial networks. The symbiant monitors sugar levels within the wearer, and either delivers, or removes excess glucose, which can be stored in a nutrient pack outside of the body. Visually similar to a modern wristwatch or health tracker with a glowing screen.
Psilocybisol (PTSD/Chronic Depression) – a wearable paired with a home growth kit that provides relief from chronic depression, PSTD, and OCD through an enhanced psilocybin spore release. The user can find a calming practice in the care and growth of their enhanced medicinals, and use the wearable as a delivery device when needed.
Erin Smith is an artist whose work focuses on themes of sustainability, waste, and the future of fabrication. Her most recent work has involved bacteria, yeast, and fungi as raw materials, and her recent position as an Artist-in-Residence at Microsoft Research enabled continued experimentation with biomaterial fabrication, and further exploration of the aesthetics and possibilities of sustainable biomaterials in our modern world.