science | April 23, 2013

Carpal Skin: Science Speaker Neri Oxman Mimics Nature To Improve Human Health

Anyone who has suffered from the pain of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome knows how excruciating it can be. Neri Oxman, a popular science speaker and Research Group Director at the MIT Media Lab, has created a solution to ease the suffering of this severe nerve pain. While the usual course of treatment is splinting the affected limb overnight in preparation surgery, Oxman took a more unique approach. Instead of creating a product that works to restrict your body's natural movements, she prototyped a protective glove that works with your body. The Carpal Skin, as it's called, does limit movement—but it does so in an interesting way.

Rather than a one-size-fits all splint, Oxman's glove customizes the amount of pressure placed on the wrist to give support in a personalized fashion. The glove maps the intensity and duration of pain in a person's wrist and distributes hard and soft materials that ease pain where and when it is needed. Somewhat resembling the formation of the brain, the Carpal Skin is flexible and adaptable. According to Oxman's project website, the glove was "inspired by animal coating patterns in the control of stiffness variation." This is similar to some of Oxman's other work where she models her projects after lessons learned in nature (known as biomimicry). If you are curious about how Oxman arrives at these nature-driven designs, check out her appearance on CNN's Next Big Thing here.

In her sweeping talks, Oxman explains how she creates projects that fuse seamlessly with the environments around them—melding into the surroundings rather than acting independently. Her non-conventional design methods provide sustainable solutions to some of the biggest issues facing society. Complex in scope, but wholly accessible, her keynotes uncover the intriguing designs of the future. And, how we can incorporate these principles into our daily lives.

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diversity | April 22, 2013