Human hair could become interactive technology

Contributed by
Apr 27, 2018, 10:45 PM EDT

Technology is constantly pushing forward new ways to interact and interface with computers. But what if the next technological innovation could actually be worn on your head? UC Berkeley Associate Professor Eric Paulos is a proponent of Cosmetic Computing, which allows users to utilize wearable technologies and find new ways of expressing themselves. Together with his team of researchers, Paulos has explored the potential for human hair as the next step in interactive technology.

Via BoingBoing, Paulos was one of the lead authors of “HäirIÖ: Human Hair as Interactive Material,” a paper recently published in The Hybrid Ecologies Lab. The paper proposes that human hair is an ideal medium to expand with technology because it “presents a unique and little-explored site for novel interactions.” Paulos and his team also released a concept video for HäirIÖ, which explores its potential uses in social situations.

As seen in the video, some of the uses envisioned for HäirIÖ include the ability to literally let your hair down, as well as a way to gently nudge users in the right direction or notify them when they receive a text. HäirIÖ can also be used during musical performances or even for more playful social interactions. There is potential for other uses as well.

In the paper, Paulos and his team suggest that HäirIÖ could be a way to challenge “gender norms and expectations of who can and how to style hair” while exploring “a world of creativity and engagement with technology embodied in a familiar, intimate, transformative platform.”

Whether HäirIÖ can live up to that promise remains to be seen, but it will probably be determined by the cultural response, and whether the technology behind it can deliver on its potential.