Take A Stroll Through This Living Human Cell

A new Kinect-rigged installation lets you wiggle your toes around in some organelles.

In seventh grade, my science teacher said that Fantastic Voyage was an amazing movie for two reasons. The first was that you got to see Raquel Welch in a bikini. I don’t remember the second one.


But I’m guessing the second reason was that, for as campy as the movie may be at times, it does create an entire, explorable world out of microscopic processes. You realize that biology is just as regimented at the micro scale as our society is at the macro scale.

Living Cell is an interactive installation by CLEVER°FRANKE for the ERIBA Institute. The imaginative interface allows you to actually step inside a cell, walk around its organelles, and influence its processes. All you need to do to, say, activate mitochondria is to place your feet into them. Then you can watch the rest of the cell come alive with an influx of energy.

“It is about making something so small tangible,” CLEVER°FRANKE’s cofounder, Thomas Clever, tells Co.Design. “We wanted to keep the cell’s look and feel neutral and let the processes speak for itself.”

The installation operates via a relatively simple Kinect tracker and a projector, and there’s no text or narration to guide you. But that doesn’t mean your exploration can’t get fairly complex. Aside from activating various parts of the cell, by stepping on external substances like glucose, UV, or nicotine, you can run a mini lab experiment to study how your cell will react. (The nicotine will actually kill the cell, while the glucose gets things moving.) The relatively complex processes are conveyed through illustration, animation, and iconography.

“The lighting, ambiance and interaction do the work,” Clever explains. “We did not want to detract from this with flashiness. We aimed for a really graphical approach.”

Ultimately, this approach makes Living Cell into a kind of modernized textbook illustration–a cleaner, more immersive rendition of the musty biology books you grew up with. And you know, all those clean graphics leave a bit of aesthetic wiggle room, should a bombshell randomly show up in a bikini.


About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.