Jan 14, 2016 | By Alec

A futuristic technology like 3D printing invites speculation about what the future will bring, and to our knowledge no one has taken that as far as the dystopian visions of Italian fashion design studio MHOX. Looking towards the far edges of human evolution, they are envisioning a dystopian growth path in which our bodies become partially encased by carapaces, or exoskeletons reminiscent of crustaceans. This has led to an intriguing series of 3D printed accessories and wearables that enables the wear to experience the human carapace – previously resulting in gorgeous, if somewhat intimidating masks, bracelets, earrings and necklaces that capture that dark stage of human evolution. As visions of the future increasingly also include VR and wearable sensors, their latest creation focuses on facemasks that could, theoretically, be embedded with VR goggles and brain activity-enhancing sensors.

As regular readers might remember, the Carapace project has been ongoing for some time and seems to truly capture what the MHOX design studio is all about. Based in Bologna and Modena, Italy, and founded in 2012 by Filippo Nassetti and Alessandro Zomparelli, its designers are known for developing body extensions that capture those hints of the future. In their own words, they try to ‘integrate the human body to mutate its aesthetic and functional potential.’ Keywords that describe their complex visions could include body alteration, mutation and metamorphosis, and therefore takes us in an unorthodox, though very interesting direction. This has already resulted in some very interesting 3D printed wearables released last year. And perhaps in a bid to make the Carapace project more accessible, they have recently also unveiled a series of fashion accessories – including bracelets, earrings, a necklace and an iPhone 6 cover – that capture that black, sleek and biological appearance.

But throughout their creations, a distinct appearance is kept and their VR facemasks, or prostheses, have been created in the exact same way as their predecessors. “Aiming at reproducing a few qualities of carapace’s morphology in design, we developed a generative strategy to create and control the ornamental qualities of a shell object according to the position of the centers of its voids,” the makers explain. “In order to control the distribution of the voids according to specific parameters a population of virtual agents was programmed to self-organize and occupy the available space along the shell body.”

Through manipulation of these parameters, the algorithms behind Carapace create this smooth, custom wearables packed with voids. “The obtained results suggest a wide range of possible design applications such as the creation of interfaces that can be transparent, permeable to light or structurally efficient. The coefficient of porosity can vary according to input data from physical simulations or design needs,” they explain. Like its predecessors, it is also 3D printed in a strong and light nylon material using SLS 3D printers, giving a lightweight, very strong and smooth result. They can obviously also be made custom-fitting.

But this isn’t just a reiteration of their previous work, as they are also imaging a very clear purpose for these facemasks as VR and sensors add a whole new dimension to the human experience. “The environment itself is now embedded in the product, a prosthesis that extends the potential of the human body to the exploration of multiple possible virtual worlds,” they write on their website. “[It] integrates a virtual reality visor, headphones and BCI (Brain Computer Interface) sensors, providing an immersive experience based on deep symbiotic interaction between the device and the user.” That neurological information can then enable people to change the virtual experience and transform one’s own mental state. Theoretically, at least, such facemasks thus enable software developers to develop complete new environments.

While that might be a bit too futuristic for many, the Carapace VR-mask does pose some interesting questions and opportunities. They can, for instance, be used as custom VR wearables -and unique is very popular nowadays – and could make the VR experience more comfortable and help isolate wearers from exterior sensations. As all design should, MHOX’s latest creations thus stimulate thought on multiple levels, from the futuristic and alien, to the practical.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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