Products and Design

The Morpholio Project takes the pulse of 3D printing

The Morpholio Project is a collaboration of architects and academics focused on harnessing technology as a tool to unleash creativity.  For their latest development the Morpholio team wanted to see if it could quantify the physical impact of an image on the human body. Morpholio Co-Creator Toru Hasegawa explained, “As an extension of our research we wanted to see if we could record the heartbeat in relation to what was being seen and experienced.”

Morpholio turned to the medical profession to understand how it measures blood flow through a technique called photoplethysmography (PPG). PPG measures the pulse by periodically taking photos of an illuminated region of skin. The camera reads small fluctuations in color that result from actual blood flow through the skin. Its possible to perform this technique on an iPhone given the placement of the camera and flash and cell phones have even been scientifically proven to capture an accurate heartbeat. The team used Shapeways to prototype and develop a 3D printed fitting for the iPhone that accurately places the users’ finger on the device and blocks external light from entering the camera. 
I caught up with Toru Hasegawa and Anna Kenoff, Co-Creators at Morpholio, about how 3D printing fit into their app development process. 

How did 3D printing with Shapeways fit into your design and iteration process? 

Shapeways is like the Kinko’s for innovators. Fast, reliable and high quality.  It is incredible to have this technology so accessible for designers and enthusiasts alike. 
From your research, what advice do you have for other designers working to apply the “analog tools of design” to the always-on device culture?
Rapid prototyping, by nature, is an analog tool of design.  Output, building physical models, allows for a higher level of inquiry and gives designers feedback that simply rotating an on-screen model can’t.  No matter how much more seamless our information culture gets, we still need to touch and feel both our our devices and the things they help us create.  Both represent a scale of interface that can be further interrogated. 
What impact do you think 3D printing will have on the future of design and creativity? 

Just as we saw an explosion of images with the digital camera, we will first see an explosion of unique objects around the world as 3D printing becomes more accessible.  An interesting byproduct will the 3D remix, just like audio “mixing,” where ideas, materials and methods start to influence one another and proliferate far beyond our current expectations.