‘TOUCHY human camera’ – new media device from Tokyo – combines power of technology, art and live performance to reinforce importance of offline communication
in over-virtualized world.
TOKYO, JAPAN – Eric Siu, a new media artist from Hong Kong currently based in Tokyo, has completed a working prototype of “Touchy – human camera”. Touchy is a helmet-like wearable camera with a pair of shutters activated by human touch. The device aims at solving the problem of over-virtualized communication by creating joyful offline interactions. Siu as Touchy (the person wearing the device) plans on bringing this hybrid project of art & technology out on the streets by performing live across Tokyo and beyond.
Touchy has been designed to counteract the dehumanization of social communication caused by widespread of technologies like Internet social networking and mobile phones. The project focuses on the relationship of giving and receiving by transforming a human into a camera. Touchy is blind most of the time until you touch his/her skin. Once vision is given to Touchy and physical contact maintained for 10 seconds, he/she can take photos (touch-snaps) for you. The Touchy project investigates how such a device improves social life, presupposing that a camera is a known tool for sharing memories, valuable moments, enjoyment, emotions, beauty and so forth. Touchy camera can only take a photo when supported by physical interaction, pointing to the importance of offline, here-and-now type of communication.
“Among the Internet society, there is a delusion about the easiness of discovering the world. However, the real discovery of the world cannot happen on our own. Eric’s devise indicates this subtle notion.”
– Maywa Denki
Touchy is about a direct communication with another human being through touch and eye contact and it is being tested with a wide community of users (toucha – person activating the shutters by touching Touchy). Siu, together with his project partner Asia Skubisz acting as Margaret Toucha (Touchy’s best friend) have already performed live in Akihabara (the world famous electronics town), Harajuku (capital of cute fashion), and at People Design Institute reception party ‘Future of Mobility’ (initiative designed for bridging the gap between people with various disabilities and the larger society.) Touchy will be also appearing at TEDxKids@Chiyoda (conference aimed at disseminating ‘ideas worth spreading’). Blinded by the shutters, Touchy cluelessly wonders among the crowd, while Margaret encourages the typically reserved Tokyoites to take touch-snaps.
Videos from live performances can be accessed here:
“The ten second touch is a great idea. It’s much longer than a casual handshake or hug: an awkward social tension builds up, making the interaction meaningful and memorable.”
– Andrew ‘bunnie’ Huang (entrepreneur & hacker)
“Touchy can make people happy here and now. That’s its real charm”
– Adam Lindemann, Managing Partner at Mind Fund
Apart from the street performances Siu and Skubisz plan on spreading the concept of Touchy and its philosophy deploying other popularly consumable means of artistic expression – such as manga (Japanese-style comic) and music. The characters of Touchy and Margaret Toucha already have their cartoon representations. In the story, Margaret shows Touchy the world by taking him to interesting and meaningful places where they take touch-snaps. By visiting unique destinations, the pair aims at bringing mass audience’s attention to certain alarming social issues, such as e.g. hikikomori (isolated and socially reclusive) phenomenon and isolation of elderly.
“Storytelling is crucial in communicating Touchy’s concept effectively. By receiving help from Margaret, Touchy heals himself but he also heals Margaret – by making her feel useful, he empowers her. Everyone can become Touchy and toucha – these roles are by no means exclusive to Eric Siu and Asia Skubisz. Reciprocity in human interaction is universal”
– Eric Siu
Siu’s final goal is to have Touchy available for sale as a social healing device. Skubisz hopes that the tagline ‘Stay in Touchy’, becomes widely used to express the notion of ‘let’s stay in touch offline’.
“Touchy is not a criticism of the social media and other technology-enabled communication channels. Instead of negating the technological progress, Touchy is a humoristic polemic on the conscious and balanced assimilation of such progress into the contemporary lives.”
– Asia Skubisz
Stay in Touchy!
– offline –
Eric Siu is a Hong Kong new media artist who has a broad interest in device art, interactive art, kinetics, installation, video and animation. He worked as a resident artist at the Ishikawa Oku Laboratory of the University of Tokyo for 2 years after he had received his MFA from the Department of Design Media Arts at UCLA in 2010. Before that, he had completed a 12-month cultural exchange and research project in the United States funded by the Asian Cultural Council. Eric’s video art and multi-media works have been shown both locally and internationally including USA, Australia, Japan, Korea, Germany, and Poland, amongst others. He has exhibited in media art festivals including FILE, Transmediale, EMAF, WRO, SIGGRAPH Asia, ISEA, Microwave, and so fort. His video short “Sliding Whites” received an honorable mention from the WRO 05, 11th International Media Art Biennale, Wroclaw, Poland. Since 2008, he serves as board member of Videotage, Hong Kong.
Joanna (Asia) Skubisz is originally from Poland, but she currently lives and works in Tokyo. Asia has graduated from Oxford University in MSc Modern Japanese Studies. She has also attended SOAS, University of London (BA Japanese Studies and Linguistics), UCLA (exchange program) and Waseda University (exchange program). Asia has completed the internships at both United States House of Representatives and Delegation of European Union to Japan. She is a professional IT marketer (working for IT venture – Digital Garage), enthusiast of everything tech and fashion related as well as a die-hard promoter of ‘ideas worth spreading’ (both as a member of TEDxTokyo media team and Touchy’s PR/Marketing Director).