Week 7: UX of Skin

[]  Thursday 11th of November: AEIOU

[]  Brief: 
Design a way to express the skin/world interface

[]  Team members: 
Anya, Bala, Dora, Ramya, Ranga

Initial thoughts

We started with a group discussion about the brief. We discussed how we experience our own skin and I wanted to exsentatate certain characteristics of that.

In the session we also discussed the properties/ characteristics/ functions of skin and talked about relevant research

At this point we decided to employ the AEIOU technique and list out all the possible skin to world interfaces we could think of.

Like many groups we struggle with the AEIOU technique. AEIOU is an observation framework, after researching further into it I have realised how we executed it incorrectly. We approached the headings Activities, Environment, interactions, Observations and User as separate situations, rather than using it to analyze one situation. 

I will demonstrate how we used it and then how it was supposed to be used in the next two tables:

In Hayley Lock's workshop we were encouraged to explore introspection and the self through meditation techniques to tracks by Brain Eno and self expression exercise. Having this experience encouraged me to think about the different forms of consciousness; meditative state, sleeping and general anesthetic and how time is preserved in these states.   In meditative states and under general anesthetic you tend to have a warped sense of time anesthetic feeling like no time has passed and then meditation losing sense of time. Losing the sense of time allows you to focus on self, giving a focus to how your body senses the world around you. In this exercise I felt textures and sensations that I was usually unaware of as they are overridden by other stimuli.  

I was thinking about spiders and the hairs they have all over the body, similar to humans. How could we show how these hairs work and what they do for our senses?


As part of initial research for this project I started looking at ways of measuring skin sensitivity.

We are not scientists so I think it is important to build research on practical knowledge rather than scientific research as this is more attainable, usable data.

‘Touch is the least understood sense’ K.Johnson neurology research - Hopkins Krieger Mind/Brain institute.

Kenneth developed a neurological technique for measuring tactile spatial resolution called the two point discrimination technique. This is used to measure neurological function in motor pathways for people with spinal cord injuries.

The technique involves using a compass-like device at different widths around the body, and asking the patient if both ends of just one end of the compass is touching them. Below is a table to show the thresholds.

We can see that fingers are the most sensitive and the calf is the least.

I spoke to  neuroscience students about the technique:

Interview one:

Jacob: Is this a widely used technique ?

Jacob: When is it used ? and what useful information does it tell the practitioner ? 

Student one: I would guess it’s still in use. Also seems like it has potential to be very intricate.

Student one: This is a data set given of what a normal response should be, then the patients are tested and see how much they deviate from that threshold.

Interview two:

Jacob: Is this a widely used technique ?

Jacob: how is it problematic ?

Jacob: Are there any improvements that have been made to make the test more reliable ?

Student two: It's a problematic technique and is widely criticized so has to be used alongside other techniques in measuring the recovery process.

Student two: the data is very varied and can vary depending on how the practitioner is taking the test with unavoidable human error. Also, sensitivity can vary from person to person before an injury takes place so it is hard to tell how much has been lost.

Student two: there is a machine that does the pin prick so the pressure does not vary from patient to patient or practitioner to practitioner.

From speaking to these two students, I found that it is a widely criticized technique. However, there are not many other techniques to gauge these measurements because we still have relatively little understanding of touch and sense, so although practitioners and researchers are aware of the incositances some useful data can still be produced.

Idea generation

We went to the tutorial with three ideas. The idea that I talked about was building off the back of the two point discrimation research. I wanted to look at how we increase the sensitivity of exenteration in certain areas of the body to make people more aware of what they were feeling similar to how Haley Lock made us feel in the meditation practice.

The two other ideas were:

  1. A speculative design of humans being able to adopt the abilities of changing their skin to suit their environment, for example if they changed to a more hotter, humid environment how would their skin have to adapt to keep their body healthy.

  2. Recreate human touch to achieve an emotional connection. We looked at how Brazilian hospitals dealt with disconnect in the pandemic. They gave patients water filled latex gloves to simulate touch and emotional support. So we thought about developing a backpack that felt like someone hugging you from behind.

After the tutorial we decided to focus more on the valuable properties of skin rather than trying to design something new. One of the comments I really liked was ‘how would a volume dial change if it was covered in a skin like texture ?’ which is an interesting topic, technology is quite cold and monolithic, but how can we change it to reflect its function?

Developed ideas

"When we interact with others, we use skin as interfaces," explains designer Marc Teyssier.

We decided to cover Office supplies with chicken skin, since during times of COVID people working from home find it difficult to connect personally. We noticed after this experiment that it didn't increase the connection, since we are just putting skin on top of objects. It lacked the warmth and comfort of actual human skin.

We circled back to the Brazilian hospital design, which is when we decided to focus more on how the touch of a hand can comfort a person especially for people with anxiety and feeling lonely. Taking the information that we collected from the first idea, we found out that body peripherals - fingers and toes and feet soles and palms - they’re oft used by the user, and most people are used to ignoring little sensations.

Presentation and feedback

I think in the presentation it was evident we didn't have much of an idea. Our body of research was strong and I am happy that that showed when presenting but we went to the presentation with two ideas that were both loose in concept and links to wider context.


I think this group was very strong in terms of research, there are a lot of strong personalities meaning there is a large variety of ideas and directions to go in. However, it struggled with this dynamic as a lot of the time everyone was doing their own thing and there was no cohesion in ideas - as no one wanted to back down or be persuaded to develop something different. I found this challenging at times which caused me to take a more back-seated approach and do what was asked of me, because if I expressed a different opinion it felt like it wasn’t really listened to or the plan was changed without communicating this to the rest of the group. I think in the future this has made me want to rely more on a written plan and delegation of tasks like we did in the yellow project to make sure we stay on task and use our time effectively.