Gender equity will shape the future of our bodies and technology

Gender equity will shape the future of our bodies and technology

The statistics of women in technology as well as digital media related industries are shamefully low. The game industry alone only employs about 2.9 percent woman in leadership roles, and other sectors are not terribly dissimilar. Hardware start ups are by far the most notorious for being skewed in terms of gender ratios and outright hostility to women. To bring attention to gender inequity, numerous articles have surfaced to highlight that the percentage of computing jobs held by women in tech has actually fallen over the past 23 years as the technology sector has grown and pervades our daily lives. One study showed that in 2013, just 26% of computing jobs were held by women in the U.S. alone, which was down from 35% in 1990. Since the 1980s, we have also been witnessing a steady decline of women in computer science even though the percentage of engineering jobs for women are supposedly on the rise. While well-meaning conferences and pioneering organizations focused on fostering gender equity and training for women in technology are rapidly emerging to rectify this increasing gap, what continues to fascinate me is the absence of a robust discussion of alternative genres and product diversification. Rather than envision how we might design technologies differently from a women-centered point of view, much of the mainstream attention emphasizes fitting into a pre-existing system and approach to technological development. We continue to dress in drag when we could instead pro-actively shape the discourse and re-humanize our relationship to future technologies. Why? My hunch is that if we go all the way back to the forking moment post World...
Be Biocreative: How will you use the XTH Sense?

Be Biocreative: How will you use the XTH Sense?

Wow! March has been like a time warp. We’ve been having lots of fun driving around Berlin, London and New York gathering case studies of musicians, researchers, animators, dancers, virtual reality creators, even kids, using the XTH Sense to enable us to better understand the various ways our community might interface with our new biocreative instrument. We’ve come away pleasantly surprised and genuinely heart-warmed by all the ingenious ways people envision integrating the XTH Sense into their creative and research practice. One thing all the interviews had in common was a sense of awe and wonder when they heard their raw muscles sounds with headphones for the first time as they began to slowly move and re-attune themselves with their bodies. For composer & cellist Illay Chester, experimenting with XTH Sense was “very curious, like entering a different dimension, a whole new world, and its right there inside of you.”  Dancer, Susanne Eder, was amazed that the instrument could make the tiniest movement of her muscles perceptible, which restored “an open and natural child-like sense of play” to her often over-disciplined practice. And researcher, Pedro Lopes, observed that in contrast to the barriers he typically encounters with other tracking or biomedical devices, it was refreshing that “everything is completely transparent, and you can dig into any layer of the raw data and code.”  Here’s what media & sound artist, Andrew Demerjian had to say: http://www.xth.io/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/andrew_clip.m4v Over the next few weeks, leading up to Kickstarter, we’ll be announcing two great opportunities for our community to shape the future of the XTH Sense. Be on the look out for a short survey next...
Biomedia, a new medium that restores human connection

Biomedia, a new medium that restores human connection

In our last post, we claimed we were driving the creation of a new medium of expression: biomedia.  This week, we thought we’d share where it came from and how it connects to our larger vision. Eugene Thacker coined the term biomedia to show how biology is becoming the new media. Thacker says that the body is the medium and its biology is the message. He uses this idea to examines how bioinformatics uses DNA to perform computations. Echoing the cybernetic easy slippage, he sees a confluence between genetic and computer codes, between informatics and biology. Thacker views the scope of biomedia as a way to restore the materiality of our bodies. He suggests that we do not use computer technology in the service of biology, but rather that we understand the expression of our body more fully by using computers look at, and use, the body biology. At XTH, we are extending Thacker’s notion of biomedia. With our approach to body technology, we are creating technologies that create real-time, dynamic interaction with computers using the physiological processes of our own bodies. We are creating a direct connection between biology and media. In contrast to the current direction of the wearable market, which views the body as purely data to track, measure, and analyze, our XTH Sense™ is a “bio-expressive technology”. It reveals the human body as more than data. The XTH Sense amplifies inaudible sounds that characterize each of our own bodies. It re-establishes our intimate connection with ourselves, and with one another. It lets us share human experience through our bodies. By redefining Thacker’s idea of biomedia,...
First Batch of Custom XTH Sense Almost Ready

First Batch of Custom XTH Sense Almost Ready

It’s been awhile since our last update. Marco & I’ve been busy finishing up our PhDs, traveling around to demo the first iteration of the new XTH sense at various conferences and festivals, including SOLID by O’Reilly, NIME (New Interfaces for Musical Expression), NYEAF (New York Electronic Art Festival), and cultivating some exciting partnerships we hope to share with you very soon! In the meanwhile, our team (whom you met in our last post) has made some astonishing progress. Marije has finalized the firmware and Marco’s been working with Will to parse the two new data sets (body temperature & 9-degrees-of-freedom). They’ve also been getting the PD patch into C for the API.  Once these remaining items are complete all the energy will be focused on the software side: feature extraction, musical algorithms, and interfacing with web-based applications, mobile devices, Unity, Isadora, Ableton and anything else the community can think of. In addition, Simon’s been preparing a small, custom batch of boards and Marina’s sent out the design for both the transmitter and receiver encasing to a 3D printer . She has also been tirelessly hand-sewing some adjustable straps for all parts of the body. We’ll use this first batch for demo-ing, market discovery and a new commission of Marco’s work. On the branding front, Paola has completed our beautiful brand book, which we are beginning to implement to increase our visibility, and she and I are moving into Kickstarter mode in preparation for our launch in the Fall. Things are moving swiftly!  Sign up for our newsletter for more details or follow us on Facebook or Twitter to...
The New XTH Sense is Coming: Meet the Team

The New XTH Sense is Coming: Meet the Team

In our first post, we announced the launch of our new website and told you we were going to use this space to share our development process. So to wet your appetite, what you see above is our current prototype of the brand new XTH Sense! Today, we will introduce you to the amazing global team that is making it possible, so you can put a face to a name, and know who’s been up to what for context as we share more over the coming weeks. From the very moment Marco & I first received the Creativity + Technology = Enterprise funding from Harvestworks through Rockefeller Foundation’s Innovation Award to commercialize the new stand alone, wireless version of the Xth Sense, we knew it was essential to bring on board hardware engineer, sound artist and performer Marije Baalman. Marije was the mastermind behind Sense/Stage and a key member of the legendary STEIM, a pioneering lab for physical approaches to new musical instruments and interactive music. Marije invited fellow engineer and maker of impossible things, Simon Claessen to join us in developing the transmitter and receiver. Together, Marije has been spearheading the firmware and Simon has been designing the PCB boards. As we started talking through the functional and usability design for the components, we soon realized it was important to identify a very specific type of industrial designer. We reached out to our friends at the Waag Society for some recommendations. We were immediately inspired by wearable and innovative materials designer, Marina Toeters, and felt her fashion sensibility and work with Philips was a perfect fit. Once the...

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