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Designing Wearables: a Practice-Led Framework for Enhancement Technologies

My research aims at bridging the gap between design practice’s speculative approach and the highly technical domain of robotics. To this aim, this research explores the wicked problem of wearable systems designed to enhance the wearer’s embodied understanding of the world. Whereas design practitioners have approached the subject of enhancement technologies, envisioning speculative futures of augmentation, roboticists have developed numerous enhancement systems, thanks to recent technological leaps in miniaturisation and machine learning. While roboticists build enhancement systems yet do not manifest a critical approach to the subject, design practitioners rely on speculative methods without strategically addressing enhancement technologies’ complexity. As a starting point, this research reframes the problem of enhancement technologies through the lens of embodiment and design cybernetics to offer practitioners a set of design principles for approaching the subject from the perspective of sensory layering.

Further, this research reframes enhancement technologies within this field as systems that can sense hidden affordances and deliver them to the wearer through feedback loops layered on its pre-existing sensory contingencies. To direct the practice, I formulate five principles for designing wearable enhancements. I then embody the design principles in three projects, looking at expanding the agent’s sensory systems in their environment. I design contextual wearable systems to enhance the navigation capabilities of human and non-human agents. My research aims at offering a practice-based framework for designers and roboticists for tackling wearable enhancement technologies.

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More about Filippo

I am a designer and PhD researcher in the Royal College of Art, Department of Robotics, working on the practicalities and ethics of enhancement technologies.

I took a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communication Design from Politecnico di Milano with a dissertation about the Phenomenology and emotion in Interaction Design. I then graduated from a Master of Arts Degree in Service Design from the Royal College of Art with a dissertation about Future Forecasting as a tool and methodology for the design practice.

My work has been featured during EXPO Milano 2015, Beirut Design Week 2017 and Cambridge Biomaker Fayre 2017.

I hold a black belt in karate and was twice Italian champion.

Some of my most innovative work is in DIY and I am currently working on various sound-systems, including a modular synthesiser.

MA Service Design, Royal College of Art

BSc Communication Design, Politecnico di Milano

DIY Bioacoustics: Eavesdropping on Nature, Cambridge University, Cambridge, 2017; Artificial Intelligence and Future Agency, Beirut Design Week, Beirut, 2017; Design X Designers, Via Durando 8, Milan, 2015

Filippo Sanzeni, Ashley Hall, Paul Anderson, Future Forecasting Wicked Problems: A New Framework, Design and Semantics of Form and Movement For Design 2019 – Beyond Intelligence, pp.26–34