To take a photo, you go off on your own. Other than the reach-the-camera-out-to-get-you-and-a-friend-in-the-same-shot maneuver, photography is an isolating experience. While we may eventually share that photo on Facebook, its accolades don’t necessarily compensate for the lonely path of the auteur.
Eric Siu has a fascinating solution for this antisocial behavior. He’s the creator of Touchy, a camera worn on one’s head, blinding the wearer until someone makes physical contact to take a photo. Not only can a photographer not take a photo without human interaction; they can’t even see.
"Touchy wants to generate critical thought on physical social connection when we are living in the era in which social networking is overly virtualized," Siu tells Co.Design. "The project does not aim at making photography more social, but human. That is to say, employing the social capability of a camera to a human being."
But the idea of a human camera only goes so far as a camera feels human. The reason Touchy is so striking is largely due to a design that focuses (no pun intended) on those wide-spaced eyes—the trademark of heart-melting characters like E.T. and Wall-E. Touchy leverages this popular other-than-human aesthetic to elicit powerful, human empathy—all while still looking a bit silly.
And Touchy is meant to be silly. Siu is the first to admit that he enjoys playing with absurdity as a democratizing entry point to a larger, deeper topic. He sees Touchy as a (dark?) parallel to Japan’s "otaku" culture—the obsessive comic and gaming geeks who are known for eschewing socialization to pursue their interests. Touchy is an otaku’s (ineffective) solution to socialization, says Siu. "Suddenly he ‘transforms’ to a camera and gains social power! It’s like a lot of comics’ heroic characters, who are empowered by just wearing a suit, but only that Touchy is ironically disabled by his power suit …"
In this regard, Touchy is an irresistibly charming device with a strong undercurrent of the Twilight Zone. It’s as much a humanizing solution for the obsessive photographer as it is her punishing fate. Touchy approaches us with a tempting, wide-eyed grin, but ultimately, it seems to be an argument as much against socializing technologies as it is for them.
Touchy is no quirky alien companion. Touchy is E.T. with fangs.
[Hat tip: Visual News]