2/02/2011

Carpal Skin by Neri Oxman

Neri Oxman, researcher and professor of media arts and sciences at MIT Media Lab, is probably one of the most fascinating designers and architects among her generation. I have been following her work and research since 2007 (after having discovered her research in an issue of Architectural Design). Her latest project Carpal Skin is a protype for protective glove against Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, a medical condition in which the median nerve is compressed at the wrist, leading to numbness, muscle atrophy, and weakness in the hand. This glove-skin is inspired by animal coating patterns in the control of stiffness variation.
Carpal Skin © Neri Oxman

Neri Oxman's research focuses on the inspiration of Nature, particularly biomimicry on digital design and fabrication technologies. Biomimicry examines models, systems, processes and systems of nature with the aim of taking inspiration from nature to solve human problems such as illness (but also human dwellings, etc. Indeed, logic, behavior of natural systems can be shifted into built environment, as her research demonstrates). Biomimicry and biology inspire her design and fabrication method.
The Carpal skin acts to demonstrate the notion of a structural skin using pattern, here the animal coating.
© Neri Oxman

She integrates environmental-performance data into form-generation processes. In the case of the carpal skin, the glove is based on analysis of animal coating behavior and pattern facing internal and external pressures ; data, then, are incorporated into the glove. Hence the glove's surface forms folding or "pli" in response to various pressure. Computational analysis permits to determine material behavior according to various performance such as illness — Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Her method does not limit to the analysis of the behavior of organic elements. It include ways by which to shape these organic elements. I suppose that the tissue is then reconstructed after having determined which material to use and how to shape the glove.
© Neri Oxman

Protection is the key element. The illness Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is genetic rather than environmental. Hence, I suppose, the choice for the analysis of animal coating facing external (environment) and interior (genes) pressures — such as illness or genetic issues to determine how the coat behaves facing pressures. I am not a specialist but the state of the animal coat indicates the animal's breeding and health: color, markings, pattern, texture of hair, length of hair and health of hair coat must be taken into consideration to state the animal's health. Genes involve in coat pattern and shading as well as human or animal health.
© Neri Oxman

The form of the gloves, its vein-like surface, embodies the data and processes that have generated its final features.
Oxman's Carpal Skin aims at mapping the pain-profile of a particular patient and distributing hard and soft materials to fit the patient's anatomical and physiological requirements. Movement is limited in a customized fashion.

All renderings, images © Neri Oxman

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