Co.Design

Mr. Miyagi Meets The Matrix With a Prosthesis That Replicates “Bullet Time”

Say goodbye to the red pill. An ingenious arm prosthesis slows down your motor skills in an attempt to distort time.

The London-based designer Sitraka Rakotoniaina has applied Mr. Miyagi’s most famous aphorism--“man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything”--to an arm prosthesis that tries to mimic The Matrix’s most enduring visual image: bullet time. Participants wear Rakotoniaina’s contraption to try to catch flies with chopsticks, while the prosthesis trains the arm’s reflexes to operate at a speed slightly slower than normal. Once the brain has adapted to the new speed, the prosthesis is taken off, allowing the brain’s neurons to experience time in “slow motion,” so that the body and mind experience time on two different intervals.

The piece was part of a larger exhibition, “Design Faction,” at the Lodz Design Festival last month that highlighted 12 projects at the intersection of biology and design. Kasia Jeżowska, the show’s curator, tells Co.Design that the pieces, most of them by recent London-based graduates, made the exhibition feel more like a laboratory than anything else. Santiago Ortega’s “Blink to See Clearly” apparatus replicates the feeling of tunnel vision, for instance, while Marek Kultys’s hearing implant looks like the tracking device that was extricated from Neo’s belly button.

[Gunnar Green’s racy little entry into the show: A device that slightly chokes the wearer when he gets a phone call]

Although it’s just a speculative piece, Jezowska says that the prosthesis could eventually work. It consists of a simple hydraulic system that moves a fluid to make your arm move slightly slower than normal. “It’s designed like an exo-skeleton with plastic rings, metal rods, and bearings used as a support system for the rubber tubes and glass syringes,” she says. “Each articulation is connected to a set of ‘piston’-like devices that push the fluid in or out.” Primarily, though, it aims to create a “certain theatricality that triggers people’s imagination,” she says. Maybe Morpheus’s “desert of the real” is closer than we thought.

More information on the exhibition, which was developed in partnership with the British Council, here. More information on Sitraka Rakotoniaina here.

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4 Comments

  • Renee

    What I don't understand about design is that it's a verb, it's a thing that people from different disciplines do, and admittedly I don't understand what qualifications go along with being a designer in itself, other than making things look cool.

    Engineers design airplanes, doctor's design new medical procedures, philosophers design thought experiments. Yet  I'm somehow suppose to believe that interaction goes both ways? That a designer can understand and manipulate neurology, or create an orthotic system or put together a philosophical underpinning for a project?

    All of those fields can succesfully design things because they have the field specific knowledge to do so, designers don't.

    I kind of wish that designers spent more time consulting others or became more multi-disciplined.

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    "Hey, I liked that movie, what a great idea!"