Expanding:THE BODY

Designing for the diversity of human bodies

Prof. Dr. Claudia Müller-Birn, Freie Universität Berlin
Peter Sörries, Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weißensee
David Leimstädtner, Freie Universität Berlin

As we enter a world where technology is not just around us but also inseparable from us, even inside us, it is time to rethink how we design the human body. The rise of wearables, body tattoos, and e-textiles demonstrates the increasing ubiquity of technology in capturing vital body data. However, these innovations tend to reflect universal solutions that often overlook the individuality inherent in each human body’s response to different life situations and environments.

The field of health technologies has been characterized as male-biased, often excluding marginalized groups such as non-binary people, people with disabilities, and pregnant women. This points to the urgent need for a paradigm shift in which technologies are designed to celebrate and support the uniqueness of each human body, bridging the digital-physical divide with tangible and embodied artifacts.

Enter our groundbreaking interdisciplinary course project, „Expanding:THE BODY,“ where we foster the conventional approach and emphasize the design for the uniqueness of the human body. Our core objective is to engineer embodied interactions that actively articulate, reflect individual needs, and materialize them. Our mission is to honor the plurality of human bodies and develop a deeper understanding of embodiment as a perception and interaction mode and a design principle.

In this course, we face several challenges:

We delve into the experiential differences in the lived embodiments of individuals and groups and explore how these unique experiences shape lives differently.

We raise questions about the data and information that human bodies can provide and how individuals can cultivate skills to become more attentive to their body data.

We explore how complex and multifaceted body data can be translated into innovative physical artifacts.

We invite students from Computer Science at Freie Universität Berlin and Product Design from Kunsthochschule Weißensee Berlin to collaborate. The challenge is to design and develop novel neo-analog artifacts that use the body as a starting point. These artifacts aim to enhance cognition, communication, learning, and decision-making in everyday contexts.

In „Expanding:THE BODY,“ we embark on a journey to reshape the future of body-centered technologies. This innovative endeavor helps us create a more inclusive, perceptive, and empathetic technological landscape.


The projects were showcased in an interactive exhibition from February 14 – 20, 2024.

The exhibition took place at the Weizenbaum Institute. ↗︎


Gustav Israel, Design
Maarten Linnert, Computer Science
Moritz Zitzow, Computer Science
Teoman Köse, Computer Science
Tim Lamich, Computer Science

— Better understand your self-perception

Every day, we come across the “ideal” body, for example, on social media. However, the focus of such media tends to center around the perfect shape and form of bodies. Despite this emphasis, these idealized body images might fail to capture the diversity of our people‘s sentiments. As a result, they contribute to a skewed self-perception based on universalized or generalized human bodies.

Motivated by this observation, the project Eigenform explored the quantitative and qualitative aspects of body self-image people encounter. Eigenform challenges conventional notions of self-perception by translating numeric values and emotional well-being into tangible forms. Rather than presenting precise values, the Eigenform object embodies tendencies without assigning judgments. It incorporates a carefully designed kinematic mechanism, physicalized in three individually expandable and contractible rings. Every user receives a unique representation of their body data, collected by a scale and our questionnaire. The rings‘ expansion and contraction metaphorically illustrate the potential gap between numerical data.

Eigenform serves as a medium for discussion to provoke reflection by teasing societal tendencies toward self-optimization. Ultimately, Eigenform encourages us to have a more neutral and relaxed relationship with our bodies and reminds us how we should think about our bodies.

Github ↗︎


Fiona Förster, Computer Science
Freia Antonia Weiß, Design
David Langlamet, Computer Science
Darren Igbinedion, Computer Science
Irina Drope, Computer Science
Zohreh Asadi
, Computer Science

— Navigating mental load

We are living in a complex world, and many of us face increasing demands in our daily lives. The ever-increasing workload neglects individual emotional well-being and mental care. Thus, keeping track of our mental load is more important than ever, especially for those faced with the challenge of additional responsibilities, such as taking care of family members or loved ones.

Our project :Balance, aims to support those facing these burdens by offering a moment of calmness. :Balance incentivizes a daily and delightful ritual that allows people to reflect on their mental load.

Over the day, a wearable and a questionnaire measure the pulse and subjective stress levels. The collected data is then used as a baseline and transferred to the artifact. The metaphor of :Balance is translated into the artifacts‘ shape, which is inspired by a spinning top to materialize the withstanding of gravity, representing a mental state of flow.

The illumination reflected by the spinning top on, for example, a room ceiling, ranges from specific shades of light, reinterpreting the circadian clock, i.e., the rhythm of the sun. For example, when a person is stressed over the day, the illumination starts from a bright white light and slowly turns dark blue.

If the stress level over the day was low, the initial color is on the bluer side of the spectrum. When the light goes down, and the spinning ends, the meditator can decide whether they want to continue to meditate or whether they want to end the ritual. They can feel in control of time without a stressful alarm signal interrupting their thoughts.

Our vision is to allow people to take a break from distressing and demanding life circumstances, helping them anticipate a daily ritual to support emotional well-being. A future endeavor could be an infrastructure that can be leveraged to communicate individual stress levels to others within a safe environment.


Anna Winkler, Computer Science
Elisa Machmer, Design

Evelina Gudauskayte, Computer Science
Gaith Adra, Computer Science
Philipp Schmidt, Computer Science

— Understand, reflect, communicate

Do you understand your emotions? Some people find it difficult to identify their own feelings, let alone find the right words to communicate them to others. Yet talking about emotions is very important in order to gain a better understanding of them and develop a more constructive way of dealing with them. Language enables us to differentiate precisely between emotions. But this needs to be practiced. ShelterFeels addresses this challenge by encouraging daily reflection on your own feelings and thus expanding your emotional vocabulary in a playful way.

ShelterFeels comes in the shape of a small, intimate chest. Like a jewelry box or a small treasure chest, it is an object that belongs to you alone. After opening the chest, you have the opportunity to speak about your experiences of the day. Afterwards, a selection of the keywords you used will appear on the screen in the middle. Now it’s up to you to reflect. What feelings do the words on the screen evoke in you? Choose a corresponding emotion token for each word and place it in the middle. The different feelings are assigned to the basic emotions, i.e., sad, mad, scared, powerful, peaceful, and joyful and marked in different colours. The LEDs in the lid of the box light up according to the colour of the selected token.

When used regularly, you can see how you have felt over the course of the past week. Through this daily personal ritual, ShelterFeels enables you to get to know yourself better and grow emotional.

Github ↗︎

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