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Living Bits

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Fluid Interfaces

Fluid Interfaces

Living Bits : Opportunities and Challenges for Integrating Living Microorganisms in Human-Computer Interaction

There are trillions of living biological "computers" on, inside, and around the human body: microbes. Microbes have the potential to enhance human-computer interaction (HCI) in entirely new ways. Advances in open-source biotechnology have already enabled designers, artists, and engineers to use microbes in redefining wearables, games, musical instruments, robots, and more. "Living Bits," inspired by Tangible Bits, is an attempt to think beyond the traditional boundaries that exist between biological cells and computers for integrating microorganism in HCI. In this work we: 1) outline and inspire the possibility for integrating organic and regenerative living systems in HCI; 2) explore and characterize human-microbe interactions across contexts and scales; and 3) provide principles for stimulating discussions, presentations, and brainstorms of microbial interfaces. We aim to make Living Bits accessible to researchers across HCI, synthetic biology, biotechnology, and interaction design to explore the next genera… View full description

Living Bits : Opportunities and Challenges for Integrating Living Microorganisms in Human-Computer Interaction

There are trillions of living biological "computers" on, inside, and around the human body: microbes. Microbes have the potential to enhance human-computer interaction (HCI) in entirely new ways. Advances in open-source biotechnology have already enabled designers, artists, and engineers to use microbes in redefining wearables, games, musical instruments, robots, and more. "Living Bits," inspired by Tangible Bits, is an attempt to think beyond the traditional boundaries that exist between biological cells and computers for integrating microorganism in HCI. In this work we: 1) outline and inspire the possibility for integrating organic and regenerative living systems in HCI; 2) explore and characterize human-microbe interactions across contexts and scales; and 3) provide principles for stimulating discussions, presentations, and brainstorms of microbial interfaces. We aim to make Living Bits accessible to researchers across HCI, synthetic biology, biotechnology, and interaction design to explore the next generation of biological HCI.

The paper won the best paper award from ACM Augmented Humans and will appear on ACM Digital Library.

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Fluid Interfaces

With the ubiquitous nature of computing, the relationship between humans and computers is becoming more intimate. In addition to wearable computers on the body, there are trillions of living "computers" on, inside, and around the human body: microbes. The term microbe or microorganism refers to micron scale  living organisms, including bacteria, yeast, and fungi. These microorganisms have been integrated with human life for thousands of years. We have used them in the form of ancient technology to create, transform, and preserve materials and chemicals such as foods and agricultural products.

As Mark Weiser, pioneer in ubiquitous computing, said, "The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it." His philosophy also applies to biotechnology, one of the oldest and impactful technologies that humans have invented.

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Fluid Interfaces

In this paper, we introduce "Living Bits": the integration of microorganisms in, with and as computing systems. Inspired by how Tangible Bits sought to bridge the gap between the digital and physical environment and how Parkes + Dickie created a biological imperative for interaction design, Living Bits is an attempt to think beyond the traditional boundaries that exist between biological cells and computers. Our paper enables someone new to the area to be able to think about a project, understand what is possible, and realize what challenges exist in doing such work. We survey and classify research projects that integrate microorganisms as part of the computing system, conceptualize their key design elements, and show how to apply the concept to future projects. Finally, we discuss the ethical and societal implications of this work. We aim to inspire the integration of biology and computing to shift the traditional perspective of HCI. 

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Fluid Interfaces

Projects discussed in Living Bits : . 1. Mushtari, 2. bioLogic, 3. Mold Rush, 4. Euglena Soccer Game, 5. RGB E.Coli, 6. Breathing Shoes, 7. Biota Beat, 8. Antibiotic-Responsive Bioart, 9. OpenLH, 10. My First Biolab, 11. Vespers, 12. Carbon Eaters, 13. Social Microbial Prosthesis, 14. Grown Microbial 3D Fiber Art, 15. Mycelium Artifacts, 16.Myco-accessories,17. Growable Robot, 18. Biosensing Soft Robot, 19. Microbial Home, 20. E. chromi, 21. Microbial Perfume, 22. Bio-electronic soil sensing device, 23. Gut-Brain Computer Interfaces, 24. 3D Printed Living Responsive Materials and Devices.

We conducted a search across multiple existing fields (HCI, synthetic biology, biotechnology, interaction design, industrial design, speculative design, architecture, and art) using the following keywords: "Microorganism," "Microbial," "Microbes," "Bacteria," "Yeast," "Biotic," "Bio HCI," and selected example projects that are well established in each communities, have been published and exhibited to the public. The current community of practitioners and researchers working in the area of living Bits or microbial interfaces (Microbial HCI) is relatively small compared to other branches of the HCI community, so we aim to diversify the source of the projects as much as possible. We also aim to highlight different possibilities of microbial HCI by selecting projects that show creative and unique applications of microorganisms in the context of human-computer interactions. Therefore, these examples were selected to represent the rich spectrum of research within microbial HCI.

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Fluid Interfaces

In the process for conceptualizing Living Bits, we characterized and systematically studied the utilization of microbes as biological interfaces in each project across scales and applications. We identified and compared the unique advantages between digital and biological computers, categorized the use cases of microbes through a design rationale and proposition into different application domain of microbial interfaces. Finally, we characterized the design elements of Living Bits according to scale. We present our analysis in three parts: 1) parallels between microbial computation and digital computation, 2) different application domains, and 3) the design elements of the microbial interfaces. 

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Fluid Interfaces

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Fluid Interfaces

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Fluid Interfaces