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Lucy McRae: How can technology transform the human body?

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I call myself a body architect. I trained in classical ballet and have a background in architecture and fashion. As a body architect, I fascinate with the human body and explore how I can transform it. I worked at Philips Electronics in the far-future design research lab, looking 20 years into the future. I explored the human skin, and how technology can transform the body. I worked on concepts like an electronic tattoo, which is augmented by touch, or dresses that blushed and shivered with light. I started my own experiments. These were the low-tech approaches to the high-tech conversations I was having. These are Q-tips stuck to my roommate with wig glue. (Laughter) I started a collaboration with a friend of mine, Bart Hess -- he doesn't normally look like this -- and we used ourselves as models. We transformed our apartments into our laboratories, and worked in a very spontaneous and immediate way. We were creating visual imagery provoking human evolution. Whilst I was at Philips, we discussed this idea of a maybe technology, something that wasn't either switched on or off, but in between. A maybe that could take the form of a gas or a liquid. And I became obsessed with this idea of blurring the perimeter of the body, so you couldn't see where the skin ended and the near environment started. I set up my studio in the red-light district and obsessively wrapped myself in plumbing tubing, and found a way to redefine the skin and create this dynamic textile. I was introduced to Robyn, the Swedish pop star, and she was also exploring how technology coexists with raw human emotion. And she talked about how technology with these new feathers, this new face paint, this punk, the way that we identify with the world, and we made this music video. I'm fascinated with the idea of what happens when you merge biology with technology, and I remember reading about this idea of being able to reprogram biology, in the future, away from disease and aging. And I thought about this concept of, imagine if we could reprogram our own body odor, modify and biologically enhance it, and how would that change the way that we communicate with each other? Or the way that we attract sexual partners? And would we revert back to being more like animals, more primal modes of communication? I worked with a synthetic biologist, and I created a swallowable perfume, which is a cosmetic pill that you eat and the fragrance comes out through the skin's surface when you perspire. It completely blows apart the way that perfume is, and provides a whole new format. It's perfume coming from the inside out. It redefines the role of skin, and our bodies become an atomizer. I've learned that there's no boundaries, and if I look at the evolution of my work i can see threads and connections that make sense. But when I look towards the future, the next project is completely unknown and wide open. I feel like I have all these ideas existing embedded inside of me, and it's these conversations and these experiences that connect these ideas, and they kind of instinctively come out. As a body architect, I've created this limitless and boundless platform for me to discover whatever I want. And I feel like I've just got started. So here's to another day at the office. (Laughter) (Applause) Thank you! Thank you!

Video Details

Duration: 3 minutes and 39 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: None
Producer: TEDTalks
Views: 415
Posted by: tedtalks on Apr 6, 2012

TED Fellow Lucy McRae is a body architect -- she imagines ways to merge biology and technology in our own bodies. In this visually stunning talk, she shows her work, from clothes that recreate the body's insides for a music video with pop-star Robyn, to a pill that, when swallowed, lets you sweat perfume.

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