The world is a strange place, galleons. And the MoMA, while mind-bendingly amazing, is also full of some truly bizarre crap (piles of insulation and strangely positioned mirrors on the floor is not art, dammit).
And none so bizarre as a concept toy that debuted at a MoMA show. Galleons, meet the Epidermits toy:
What is this little hellspawn, exactly?
Epidermits is a “living,” tissue engineered toy. That’s right- its skin is actual, human-like tissue, which can be tanned, tattooed, and pierced just like human skin.
Like My Little Pony for goths and guidos.
You can customize the hair (bush?), skin (for the racists), and body to make your very own freak of nature.
The creepy faux-skin covers a fuel cell powered robotic body that can be programmed to move about and be your little waking nightmare. And if you get bored of it (or too freaked out), you can put it into a state of “forced hibernation” by putting it in the refrigerator.
Which might be an effective diet aid.
And why does this demon toybot exist?
Epidermits was created by the Karten Design firm as part of their Cautionary Visions project, a reminder that there is the potential for tech design to go off-track when “the focus on real human interactions (and values) is lost.” They came up with a few designs that highlighted possible worst-case scenarios for the future of tech design… one of which was the Epidermits toy.
According to the design firm:
In a world where the value of life decreases daily, where boundaries between real and artificial are increasingly blurred, comes the toy that will truly confuse kids and rob them of any remaining sense of the natural. Epidermits are fully functioning organisms, resulting from advance tissue engineering and the latest fuel cell and electronics technology. They don’t feel pain – or think – but follow a complex set of algorithms.
The whole thing reminds me pointedly of the short story The Robot and the Baby, in which society refuses to create child care robots because, “Surely, parents will not want their children to become emotionally dependent on robots, no matter how much labor that might save.”
To me, the most unsettling part of this whole thing was that bit about the “forced hibernation.” No off switch, no batteries that run down. No. “Forced hibernation” in your damn refrigerator.
It evokes images of a faceless robot death pig having to be flash frozen to finally stop its ceaseless, murderous robo-body. Like a tiny Terminator.