Symbiosis O


SymbiosisO: Voxel
in a collaboration with Alex Dodge, presented at tribeca ISSEY MIYAKE

Voxel is a large scale display system constructed of 64 hexagon shaped pixels (“voxels”) made of embedded soft material. The arrangement of voxels follow a honeycomb structure and have two visual states: solid dark color (“off”) and a highlighted wire-frame of a cube (“on”). The pixels can be activated by touch for an immediate feedback, or through a web based interface to create running animations.

Our project, SymboisisO, started in 2009 exploring interactive material composition. It has developed iteratively with the outcome of tangible organic displays. The first representative, SymbiosisW, senses human touch and – as a response – small cell-patterns start to grow out under the person’s hand. The second edition SymbiosisS welcomes the visitor to sit and rest on the soft-folded material with an active, slowly shifting pattern. When excited, this pattern starts forming in a playful, curious way around the place where the textile was touched. Once the disturbance is abated the pattern continues its peaceful expansion.
With Voxel our intention was to introduce a pixel-based interface instead of a predefined pattern arrangement. We would like to emphasize that none of the SymbiosisO representatives are privileged as they serve different purposes. Voxel is a tool, a flexible display that enables users to create their own image and animations, whereas SymboisisW/S expresses meaning through mimicking behavioural patterns of an organism.

Our further investigations focus on integrating Textile Displays into public spaces and special environments, to emphasize slow technology and to reduce digital noise.

At the Tallinn Center of Biorobotics, besides I was working on my thesis, I started to help the textile artist Kärt Ojavee with prototyping and researching in the area of smart textiles. After her solo exhibition ("Undefined Useful Objects") we decided to continue working together. Soon after, the idea of an SymbiosisO has born and since then it has become one of our major research projects.

SymbiosisO is a collection of interactive design objects that combine smart textiles with soft electronics. The biologically inspired artifacts represent the symbiosis between a cyber organism and the human itself.

The fabricated hybrid material can be considered as an organic display; it reacts to a unique environmental stimuli and responds by notably changing its colour and pattern. Instead of pixels we operate with pictogram-like patches in the material, that can be memorized and connected to certain information. The appearing patterns at the moment are designed so that one can easily sense the quantitative difference depending on how many patches are triggered.


Our medium is felt as it is a warm, traditional material and therefore a good base for an interior design artifact. The geometry of the fabric is generated with the voronoi tessolation algorithm; the arrangement of cells intuitively suggests to fold the material into a three dimensional landscape (SymsbiosisW, as an interactive wall artifact). Furthermore, by covering existing objects with this fabric it easily adapts their shape (SymbiosisS as seat cover, SymbiosisP as pillowcase).

The fabrication process is based on handicraft procedure such as stitching and screen-printing as well as it explores innovative techniques such as laser-cutting the structure and integrating electronics into the material. For the color change we use water-based thermochromic ink. The size of SymbiosisO can be extended by adding modules to each other; they fit in form and size.

Our fundamental design approach was to take a biologically inspired element that supports the project’s evolution both conceptually and physically. We use a multi-layered structure of a living organism as a base for form, function, aesthetics and pattern that is developed from member to member. Our ultimate goal is to integrate SymbiosisO into everyday life and have it as part of our environment. Besides, we are also interested in more focused spaces such as rehabilitation centers, hospital waiting rooms and children’s playgrounds.

work in progress:

exhibited at:

INPUT_OUTPUT: Adaptive Materials and Mediated Environments Symposium and Exhibition/ Temple University of Art, Philadelphia, 2010

ÖÖ - Was it a Dream? /Nordic Avant-Garde, London, 2010

Plektrum festival, Architecture and Design Gallery, Tallinn, 2010
Pixelache, Helsinki, 2010

built w indexhibit