Inner Body Design: Design In a Capsule

In different cities, apart from one another, yet almost simultaneously, different designers have left our tangible, materialistic, outside world for what it is. They have started to develop ideas and to design products for our inside, our inner body. And once these products are ready to be produced and utilized, we would have to swallow them to ‘activate’ the purchased product.

Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde – artist/ innovator/engineer – is “obsessed to customize the world around us” and in many ways he has accomplished to materialize the rather inconceivable ideas he has in his brain, mostly by using technology. Right now he is working on a project that goes – at least for many of us – beyond our common sense and more towards a sci-fi scenario: a pill that makes us glow, shine and luminous. Within a year from now Roosegaarde expects his project to be finalized and then, once we absorb the pill, light will shine through the skin of our hands (“let’s start with the hands”, Roosegaarde suggests). In order to create his “luminous pills” Roosegaarde looked closely at the animal world, at a jellyfish for example, and how to hack nature’s techniques.

Another project that shows striking similarities but that builds on the body’s own enzymes is the project “Swallowable Parfum” of Australian body-architect Lucy McRae. Together with synthetic biologist Sheref Mansy, McRae is developing a capsule that contains “synthesized fragrant lipid molecules that mimic the structure of normal fat molecules naturally found in the body”. Without going into the biological details, this means that after we eat the capsule our body will emit a unique fragrance through the skin’s surface when we perspire.

These two projects are still in their research phase, but going a few years back in time, 2009 – 2011 to be exact, you will find another project (a drinkable yogurt this time) that has to go through our body to perform its function. British designers James King and Alexandra Daisy Grinsberg developed in close collaboration with undergraduates from the Cambridge University in London the E-chromi project: the idea of a drink laced with bacteria, which “react with the enzymes, proteins and other chemicals present in our gastrointestinal tract and turn into different colours for different diseases”, where after our stool and a colour swatch provide us with an easy health check.

Merging their creative fascinating ideas with biology and technology brings these designers to an unusual working area: our inner body. This is normally something we regard as only belonging in the hands of doctors, dentists and biologists. Without a doubt soon there will occur more inner body design projects and laboratories that challenge the idea that our human bodies are a platform for technology and that we can (re)program it to what we desire, need or want to avoid in the future.

Lisanne Fransen – Images Lucy McRae, Tobias Titz