This post was written by Perrie Briskin.
Closing this week at New York’s Museum of Modern Art is the popular exhibit Talk To Me: Design and the Communication between People and Objects.
The exhibit showcased objects, interfaces, and visualizations that, enabled by technology, “establish an emotional, sensual, or intellectual connection with their users.”
The MOMA exhibit highlighted an eclectic mix of objects – toys with augmented reality, news aggregators that can filter all the world news published in the last 10 minutes, and an interactive, personalized music video.
We officially live in an age where objects “talk” to us. The iPhone 4s was not featured (it was released after the exhibit opened) but worth mentioning; personal voice attendant Siri has set the new “talking” standard. This cultural shift is captured in the recent viral hit A Magazine is an iPad That Does Not Work.
Talk To Me’s featured healthcare projects were some of the exhibit’s best examples of how advances in technology can improve lives.
The first two healthcare objects, Swallow-Signaling Pill and Vitality GlowCaps, attempt to fix an ongoing challenge in disease management – many patients with chronic conditions do not take their medications. The American Medical Association reports that people with chronic conditions only take their medications half the time. This results in more doctors visits and, often, more medication.
One answer: patient accountability. The Swallow-Signaling Pill is still in development, but plans to embed tiny digestible microchips and antenna into every pill. When the pill is swallowed, it emits bursts of low-voltage electricity, sending a signal to the patient’s doctor or family alerting them that the pill has been taken.
Vitality GlowCaps are less invasive. They are caps on pill bottles that glow or make a sound when it’s time to take a pill. When the bottle is opened, it alerts the patient’s doctor and family. GlowCaps were first released in 2009. Read about GlowCaps impressive impact in more detail.
The most impressive of the three healthcare products was E.chromi – a “experimental collaboration” between designers and scientist at Cambridge University to use synthetic biology as a tool for self-diagnosis. E.chromi is a fictional drink that, using real synthetic biology technology, would detect different bacteria in a person’s body and produce a bright florescent color in the feces as a response. So, for example, bright neon orange could indicate that E.chromi detected bacteria linked to colitis, an inflammation of the colon. This could then prompt you to see a physician.
The healthcare projects in Talk To Me all share a common theme echoed in much of health 2.0: patient empowerment – developing user friendly tools that help consumers take charge of their own health.
Technology is never a cure-all, but it can surely help if it knows how to talk to us, and we’re willing to talk back.