Cilllia – MIT Tangible Media Group

After going to Ishii’s wonderful lecture, I was looking through the collection of projects from the Tangible Media Group and was particularly struck by Cilllia. Over the last year or so, I’ve become increasingly interested in biomimicry and the design insights that can be gleaned from studying natural systems. Simultaneously, I’ve become increasingly skeptical of 3D printing as a medium for genuine innovation, as so much of the hype surrounding it boils down to little more than overpriced on-demand desk decorations.

However, this project thoroughly impressed me. By framing 3D printing not as the end medium, but using it as a method of synthesizing a unique material that itself has new properties, the TMG explores some many compelling use-cases for these furry plastic doodads. Additionally, the output is astoundingly low-tech. Aside from the complex production method, it doesn’t require electricity or hardware to function, but instead reveals new possibilities when combined with tech.

Some of the scenarios presented are more rooted in aesthetics, unique textures, and even a little goofy, but others-such as the directional touch recognition-are beautifully functional. Overall, this project, and its documentation, are a phenomenal example of what exploratory and experimental design should do: open doors for new ideas and provoke the audience into questioning possibilities with this creation in a way that invites response and collaboration.

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