Put Touchy on your head, and at first, you won’t be able to see a thing. The masklike wearable camera’s shutters stay closed, leaving its owner to grope about blindly. Touch the person wearing Touchy, though, and the shutters open wide: This camera, as a “phenomenological social interaction experiment,” can only take photos when its owner makes a physical human connection with another person.
Touchy is the brainchild of Eric Siu, a new media artist from Hong Kong who creates kinetic sculptures and interactive installations. Siu’s work examines movement and our senses in a digitized world, having previously designed Eeyee, a pair of “mobile eyes.” Through a built-in sensor, Touchy can tell when another person is touching its wearer — and after 10 seconds of contact, the front-facing camera on the device takes a picture.
With Touchy, Siu hopes to start a conversation about social isolation. Technology and social networking have made it easier to go an entire day interacting online, but never connecting with a real person face-to-face. The camera uses technology to overcome the loneliness that can be caused by technology, and transforms the mechanical process of taking a photo into a social interaction.
For the best self-portrait, Siu’s artist statement recommends standing face-to-face with the person wearing Touchy, and looking into his or her eyes for the 10 seconds of contact it takes to maintain a portrait, as in the video below. The result will be different than with a regular camera, which covers your eyes, while Touchy reveals them. He writes: “Isn't it a lyrical irony that gazing into another's eyes for 10 seconds gives life to your self-portrait?”