FUTURE SKINS aesthetics of tangibility and 3Dimentional experiences by Paola Tognazzi

Second Skin Evolution Promo by Paola Tognazzi from paola tognazzi on Vimeo.


Only when a structure moves its identity reveals and can be discovered how the elements that compose it coordinate and interact together.


The opportunity of 3D printing technology has led to innovative forms. However these structures are often architectural and static both through their material and design. To date, in the field of 3D printed wearables what’s largely missing is movement. So far, 3d printed garments are usually either beautiful static sculptures or basic modular nets, Pierre Cardin style, that fall flat.

With future skins we search to defy the 3D printing possibilities and maximize the advantages of such technology, while creating an interactive relationship between the wearer and the 3D structure.

Future skins is an investigation about wearable 3D printed structures, integrated in garments, in such a way that they can create a symbiotic process of transformation of form between the wearer movements and the structure.

This research is part of a serie along the theme of FUTURE SKINS: READY FOR THE BETWEEN. Between what is no longer and what is not yet. A formulation of our desires as humans to envision our future evolution.

The skin: our interface to the world and our most sensible organ

This research investigates dynamic structures that can create a continuous soft touch on the skin with the purpose to send information to the brain about the body movement coordination and allow users to feel on their skins what happens inside of their bodies, when they move. Ultimately, by transmitting movement on a person’s skin, this 3D structure offers a tactile sensory experience of the invisible work of the body.


This project is a collaboration between the italian artist and physical interaction designer Paola Tognazzi Drake and Mexican expert 3D modeler Jonathan Ramírez Díaz de León and Gianluca Pugliese (WASP) for the prototypes 3D printing of the prototypes.


In this accelerated world in which we are so focus on tomorrow next big thing that we miss the present, this research aims, firstly, to develop reactive skins that encourage wearers to be present in the here and now, feel and control their movements.

Secondly, to promote that to develop wearable technology that can be implemented in everyday life, it’s necessary to design, thinking about the body ergonomy, movement dynamics and natural mechanics.

Thirdly, to inform the public about the opportunities of integrating textile with electronic materials to create a sense of touch, vibration, and self-awareness.


The feedback of the structure movement onto the body’s nervous system can stimulate a sense of touch. The physical movements in the real world taps in the virtual world of brain body maps. The innovation of this research is the creation of interactive mutually informing process between the wearer and the 3D structure, using mechanical structures and engineering instead of electronics.
The suit design applies movement mechanics studies to the wearable structure in order capture the user’s body motion and translate them to fit the device structure movements.


The project implements a research through design methodology (RTD) focusing on design from and for the body in motion. To this end, it applies the dynamics of physical movements to understand patterns structural expressiveness to inform the 3D design.

The methodology analyzes the friction between reality and fiction, analog and digital technology and the in-between tension that generates when researching new forms and structures.

As part of the methodology old and new techniques are applied to think about function in innovating structures, trying not to forget the marketing of beauty. In the integration of the 3 resides true innovation, though it is not easy.


The methods incorporate: 3D printing and design, pattern visualization software customisation and mechanical prototypes using laser cutting and 3D printing technologies. While engaging with the potential of these tools, we also take a critical perspective discussing the shortcomings and challenges of future technologies. In the process we analyze the friction between material and immaterial reality and the tension generated in the prototypes structure configuration.

The shape for the 3D printed structure was created with the software Choreographing Spaces. The design structure was overlap on top of a back muscles map to align the modules with the muscular fascias we intended to stimulate with the soft friction of the modules rotation.

The language of digital technologies and its materialization in 3D gives the opportunity to imagine and observe the space in which the structure is formed by its past and its future, without skipping fundamental steps in the analysis as often happens when gluing electronics on textiles.


Laser cutter and 3D printing were used to study the technical side of the research on movement materialization mechanics. The focus was on how to connect the 3D structure to the body so that the body becomes the motor triggering the interaction of the modules without using electronics.




The challenges to be addressed are: How to make the structure adhere to the skin to produce a smooth friction, stimulating proprioception, when the modules move. How to sew the modules so they can rotate on their axes, touching the skin. How to coordinate rotations’ variations within the elements.

To analyze different ways of connecting the modules to each other, we used laser cutted and 3D printed mechanical gear systems. With these prototypes it was possible to observe the impact different materials had on how the design works and how is perceived.


Connecting the movements of the body to the 3D printed gears system by embedding the gears triggers starters in the garment, the result was that the body becomes the wearable structure’ engine, controlling the wearable and not the other way around. Future Skins modular shapes start rotating changing shape and visualizing the movement of the wearer. The wearer can feel on the skin what’s happening inside his body. The feedback from the movement data of the wearer, it’s translated into tactile sensations.

In the future these designs can stimulate wearers muscles and reconstitutes their muscular system brain maps.


All coordinated movement depends on proprioception. When proprioception is compromised, seemingly simple activities like walking or even standing can become impossibly difficult.

What exactly is proprioception?

You could call it body sense or kinesthetic awareness – it is the brain’s ability to sense the relative positions and movements of the different body parts. Because of proprioception, you know exactly where your hand is in space as you move it around, even though your eyes are closed. Accurate body sense is essential for feeling good in your body and being free of pain.
Body parts communicate with their virtual counterparts in the following way. There are millions of microscopic organs called mechanic receptors located throughout the body. When they are stimulated by a mechanical force, they send a signal through the nervous system to the part of the brain devoted to sensing that part of the body.

The brain assembles all these signals from the innumerable different sources and determines exactly where everything is and what it is doing. In essence, the brain creates numerous maps of the body that it uses to decide what is going on and how to move.
Brains use these maps to make decisions about how to move and the better and more detailed these maps are, the better and more precise are the movement. In contrast, if the map is unclear or fuzzy, navigation of the different movement possibilities will be shaky.
When one stops moving a body part, the brain starts deleting the maps for its coordination thus compromising proprioception.


The health of the virtual bodies in the brain is just as important as the actual bodies (and changing them is often quicker and easier as well.)
People in general are much more aware of the movements of the limbs (arms and legs) than the ones of the muscles in the torso and back. One reason is because we can see the arms and legs moving while we don’t see as easily the movement of the other muscular groups . Another reason is that the former move much more in space while the latter although they are more important and do a lot more work, move within a more limited distance range. Because of this it’s quite common an incorrect use and placement of those muscles, or the lack of engagement of those groups, which leads to back pain, enjeries etc. etc.
The interactive rotation of this suit 3D modules, placed on the back dorsal ancho muscular fascia, creates a gentle touch on the skin, and a reminder of those muscles existence. Thus stimulating the proprioceptive maps of those body parts.

Video documentation of the complete process till now

Second Skin Evolution by Paola Tognazzi from paola tognazzi on Vimeo.


Tactile relationship with the images and the increased dependence of technological economy effects on the invisible work of the body are the currentely relevant issues from which to start new forms of representation, identity, and desire (erotics) explorations.

During the technology side of the research was realized that fields like wearables, and fashion, as so many other different technology innovation fields, nonetheless applying different techniques and methodologies, are all eventually working on the same question: A way of re-framing our environments in order to examine relationships anew from a different perspective.

3D design and 3D printing are mediums compelling us to explore new artistic creation, forms, and interactivity in which imagine, explore and prototype new forms of social engagement, wearables, and social experiences. We approach 3D as a creative platform that opens the process to the collective.

The research creative process integrates reality and fiction to generate mystery and gaps that make possible the search of new forms and structures. The gaps generated when translating verbal language and metaphors in digital codes materialize prototypes where the animalistic and erotic can find its place.

Examining our bodies by reframing our environments (social, physical or geopolitical) as ecosystems. We are all embedded in social systems, enabled and constrained by a tangle of relationships and interdependencies. As easy as it is to acknowledge this when thinking of us in the world, it’s is not when thinking of us with our own body, as well constructed of interdipendent organs and parts.

Reframing our social, physical or geopolitical environments as ecosystems allows us to focus on narratives that offer new ways of understanding ourselves and our bodies as a networked collectivity functioning as something more than the sum of its parts.