During a critique with my class we discussed my idea for a 3D hand sculpture, possibly containing hidden compartments, which was to be made of rough wood for added stimulation of memory. During the development of my design, I became particularly focuses on using hands and a gateway to unlocking memories. I love the idea of touching a hand made of natural materials, smooth but scarred, and being reminded of an experience that many children have – being fascinated at the aged hands of grandparents. At that age there is no judging or worry about mortality, but elderly hands are powerful – the wrinkles and scars telling the story of a life lived.
However, many people in the class felt that the detail in the hands that I wanted to fully capture these memories was perhaps too creepy to appeal to the general public, and there is a danger that any ornament would resemble a severed hand. I must make sure that in the future I am not only designing for myself.
One suggestion made was that the idea of a hand as a powerful source of memories was good, but the shapes needed to be softened and stylized if they are to avoid the realism that makes them creepy.
Incidentally, Wikipedia has a fascinating page about the Uncanny Valley effect, whereby human features are so life-like that they are almost real, but the result is often eerie to look at. Theories range about why the Uncanny Valley effect exists, ranging from natural selection (fewer faults been better genes), to fear of infection (if someone looks wrong, they could be dangerous), and there are also a few basic design guidelines to follow to avoid it, mostly centered on keeping the realism of the design to a constant throughout all elements of the design. For example, mixing realistic texture with non human proportions, or human voices with robotic characters.
Thinking about Cushions
With the feedback from my critique in mind, I decided to go back to one of my earliest designs and develop it further – a cushion that simulates a loving embrace. While furniture that hugs you back has been around for years in many different forms, I decided to keep my hand theme, and use the dormant memory within everyone of being held as a baby. There is evidence that many of the sensations that we find comforting as adults stem from situations in infancy, and I think this could be an interesting route to explore
I am hoping that the hand shape will appear softer and more appealing as a cushion that hugs. I want the product to bring out dormant feelings in adults of childhood, or even simply to feel like a comforting embrace during lonely times.
- 2014. Uncanny valley – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_valley. [Accessed 09 January 2014]
- 2014. Uncanny Valley: Will we ever learn to live with artificial humans? – CSMonitor.com. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.csmonitor.com/Innovation/Tech/2011/0914/Uncanny-Valley-Will-we-ever-learn-to-live-with-artificial-humans. [Accessed 09 January 2014].