Hybrid Body Craft: Convergence of Function and Aesthetics on the Skin Surface

Jeff Jacobson
  • Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao, PhD Candidate, MIT Media Lab
  • Tuesday, February 13, 2017 at 6:30 PM
  • At IBM Watson Health, 75 Binney Street, Cambridge, MA 02142.


Sensor device miniaturization and breakthroughs in novel materials are allowing for the placement of technology increasingly close to our physical bodies. However, unlike all other technological media, the human body is not simply another surface for enhancement—it is the substance of life, one that encompasses the complexity of individual and social identity. Yet, technologies for placement on the body have often been developed separately from these considerations, with a dominant emphasis on engineering breakthroughs. My research involves opportunities for cultural interventions in the development of technologies that move beyond clothing and textiles, and that are purposefully designed to be placed directly on the skin.

In my research, body craft is defined as existing cultural, historical, and fashion-driven practices and rituals associated with body decoration, ornamentation, and modification. As its name implies, hybrid body craft (HBC) is an attempt to hybridize technology with body craft materials, form factors, and application rituals, with the intention of integrating new technological functions with no prior relationships with the human body with existing cultural practices. With this grounding, HBC can support the generation of future techno customs in which technology is integrated into culturally meaningful body adornments.

Examples of the HBC framework and engineering approach include DuoSkin, an on-skin interface fabrication process grounded in metallic temporary tattoo practices, and NailO, a fingernail mounted track-pad that doubles as a nail art sticker. Hybrid in design, these artifacts concomitantly serve as technological devices and body art. While they encompass the functionality of on-body technologies, they can be applied, worn, and experienced as body crafts. By incorporating cultural considerations into the design of on-body technologies, I explore opportunities for extending their lifetimes and purposes beyond mere novelty and into the realms of cultural customs and traditions. The technology of today is soon obsolete, yet cultural customs are passed on, and carried on, throughout generations.


Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao 高新綠 is a Taiwanese born engineer and artist, currently a PhD candidate at the MIT Media Lab. Her research practice, themed Hybrid Body Craft blends aesthetic and cultural perspectives into the design of on-body interfaces. She also creates novel processes for crafting technology close to the body. Her research has been presented at various conferences and magazines (ACM CHI, UbiComp/ISWC, TEI, UIST, ACM Interactions, IEEE Pervasive Computing), while receiving media coverage by CNN, TIME, Forbes, Fast Company, WIRED, among others. Her work has been exhibited and shown internationally at The Boston Museum of Fine Art, Ars Electronica, Dutch Design Week, New York Fashion Week, and more. She has worked at Microsoft Research developing cosmetics-inspired wearables, and is a recipient of the Google Anita Borg Scholarship. Among her awards are a honorable mention/best paper award at ACM CHI and UIST, the A’Design Award, the Fast Company Innovation by Design Award Finalist, an Ars Electronica STARTS Prize Nomination, and the SXSW Interactive Innovation Award.

She holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science; and two Bachelor’s degrees in Computer Science and in Business Administration, all from National Taiwan University.

Evening schedule

6:30 – 7:00  Networking over pizza and beverages
7:00 – 8:30  Meeting
8:30 – 9:00  CHI Dessert and more networking


Thank you to our generous sponsors. Interested in sponsoring BostonCHI? Let us know!

IBM Watson Research is hosting us and sponsoring pizza.

Logo for IBM Research, Cambridge

VitaminT is sponsoring dessert.

Getting there

IBM is located at 75 Binney Street, Cambridge, MA 02142. (Entrance on Binney Street.)