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  • Transcriber: Ivana Korom Reviewer: Joanna Pietrulewicz

  • Like many people

  • who have been fortunate enough to be more or less healthy,

  • I spent most of my life never thinking much about my body.

  • Something that I relied on to get me around,

  • not to mind the occasional bash

  • and not to complain too much if I wasn't getting enough rest.

  • But that all changed for me when I became pregnant.

  • Suddenly, my body was this machine performing an incredible task.

  • That was something that I had to take notice of

  • and look after, so that it could do its job.

  • I've been a documentary photographer for nearly 20 years now

  • but I never turned the camera on myself until that time.

  • And then suddenly, I found myself fascinated

  • by how we feel about our bodies

  • and how we express strength or fear,

  • courage or shyness in the way we carry ourselves.

  • I spent several years making work that examined the relationship

  • that we have to our bodies as humans.

  • More recently, though,

  • I've been exploring a new frontier in the human body.

  • A transformation of bodies with technology.

  • As humans evolve along with technology,

  • and the lines between the two become increasingly blurred,

  • I set out to document our evolution into a new kind of human

  • and to play with that age-old question:

  • Can we ever see a real humanness in machines?

  • Sight is perhaps the most personal and intimate of our senses.

  • Classically called the window to the soul.

  • We connect with each other, recognize each other

  • and communicate with each other through our eyes.

  • If we lose an eye, we might wear a dummy replacement

  • so that our face resembles what it did before.

  • Filmmaker Rob Spence took that a step further

  • when he installed a video camera in his replacement eye

  • so that he could record his vision.

  • Rob is part of a known network of cyborgs

  • and he told me that he found it curious

  • when he started to receive hate mail from people

  • who felt threatened by him having this extra ability.

  • Was his right to change his body

  • less important than their right to their privacy?

  • So as I photographed Rob,

  • he filmed me using the camera in his eye,

  • and we recorded it on a special receiver.

  • But perhaps in response to the speed with which we all move

  • and make images these days

  • I wanted to make this work in a way that was slow and purposeful.

  • Most of these images are shot on a large-format camera.

  • These are big and cumbersome,

  • taking only one frame at a time before you have to change the film.

  • To check the focus,

  • you have to put your head under a black cloth

  • and use a magnifying glass.

  • So as I photographed Rob using this very old technology,

  • he filmed me using the camera in his eye,

  • somewhat the opposite end of the technology spectrum.

  • But I wanted to delve deeper

  • and explore more of what it could mean to lose a part of ourselves

  • and replace it with technology.

  • At MIT Media Lab

  • they are doing some of the most cutting-edge work in biomechatronics,

  • developing motorized limbs for amputees.

  • Originally set up by Hugh Herr,

  • a double amputee who was able to develop and test the equipment on himself.

  • He went on to create a set of legs that can walk,

  • run and even jump

  • without seeming to be mechanical at all.

  • The gait more closely resembles that of a human foot and leg

  • because the motor gives the wearer a push off the floor

  • to move the foot forwards from the ankle.

  • The technology here,

  • continuing to be developed by Matt Carney and his colleagues at MIT,

  • is really quite impressive,

  • with the prosthesis connecting directly into the amputee's bone for stability,

  • and sensors reading pulses from the amputee's muscles

  • to tell the limb how to move.

  • Ultimately, the wearer should be able to think about moving their foot

  • and the foot would move.

  • They're impressive to look at by themselves.

  • But of course, the prostheses don't move on their own.

  • In order to show their relationship to humans,

  • I wanted to show how they enable amputees to move with ease and fluidity.

  • But how do you photograph gait?

  • At this point, I was inspired by the work and photographs

  • of Eadweard Muybridge,

  • who is famous for his series of images of a running horse, made in 1878,

  • to prove that there's a moment when all four of the horse's feet

  • are off the ground at the same time.

  • He went on to make hundreds of series of images of animals and humans in motion.

  • It was groundbreaking work

  • and gave us one of the first opportunities to study the anatomy of motion.

  • So I wanted to try and create similar kinds of motion studies

  • of amputees walking, running, jumping, using this technology,

  • and to think of them as motion studies of an enhanced human motion.

  • One of the things I learned at MIT

  • was the incredible importance of balance

  • and the complex system of reactions and muscles

  • that enable us to stand on two feet.

  • Those of us with children will remember with fond nostalgia

  • the moment our kids take their first steps.

  • But what we think of as endearing

  • is actually an incredible feat of balance and counterbalance.

  • It can be quite daunting.

  • This is my daughter Lorelei standing for the first time

  • without any support.

  • It lasted only a few seconds.

  • Dance, in particular,

  • is all about balance and mastering the fluidity of movement.

  • Pollyanna here lost her leg in an accident when she was just two years old.

  • She's learned to dance with the aid of a blade prosthesis

  • and she now competes in a class alongside nonamputees.

  • But the skill of moving around on two legs

  • and navigating often uneven ground

  • is incredibly difficult to replicate.

  • Over at Munich's technical university they've developed LOLA,

  • a biped humanoid robot that can move on two legs

  • and make her way around a series of obstacles.

  • As she strides along, she looks powerful and impressive.

  • But her movement is also somewhat clunky and mechanical

  • and not as spontaneous or unpredictable as that of humans.

  • At the end of it all, when she switched off,

  • she hung down on her cables and looked kind of forlorn.

  • And in that moment, I saw her as more human

  • than I had done when she was walking along.

  • I felt almost sorry that she had been switched off.

  • Her exterior might be cold and mechanical,

  • but when vulnerable, she looked more real to me.

  • Alex Lewis is a quadruple amputee

  • who lost his limbs and part of his face when he fell ill with strep A.

  • One of the most inspiring people I have ever met.

  • His journey to recovery has been an incredibly tough one.

  • He now has a chip in his arm to open his front door,

  • a set of mechanical arms,

  • and a handcycle to get around.

  • Depending on what he is doing,

  • be it throwing a ball for the dog, riding his handcycle, or even canoeing,

  • he has a different set of hands that he attach to the end of his arms.

  • It's been a very tough journey,

  • but the hardships he's faced have given Alex a superhuman ambition.

  • He genuinely told me

  • that his ordeal is the best thing that ever happened to him.

  • He now goes on expeditions, climbing mountains in Africa,

  • he's planning to cycle across Mongolia,

  • and he works with London's Imperial College,

  • helping to develop a motorized hand,

  • much like the legs they are developing at MIT.

  • He may be less physically able than before,

  • but understanding his weaknesses

  • has made Alex emotionally very strong

  • and opened up a world of opportunity for him.

  • It made me realize

  • that our emotions and understanding the limits of our physicality

  • are also a huge part of what makes us strong.

  • In Osaka

  • I meet professor Ishiguro,

  • who makes robots with uncannily human faces and expressions.

  • First, I meet Geminoid,

  • the robot he created in his own likeness.

  • On the grid here you can see three pictures of the robot,

  • one of the professor.

  • Can you tell which is which?

  • One of his more recent creations is Ibuki,

  • a robot made to look like a ten-year-old boy,

  • who can wave and show a range of facial expressions.

  • In those expressions, I saw a certain vulnerability

  • that made Ibuki feel very real to me.

  • When he was angry or sad, it resonated.

  • And when he smiled, I wanted to smile back.

  • I feel I was drawn to Ibuki as I might have been to a real child.

  • And at the end of it all,

  • I felt I wanted to thank him or reach out and shake his hand.

  • So if understanding the limits of our physicality

  • can help to make us stronger,

  • then seeing the vulnerability in Ibuki's expressions

  • made him feel more human to me.

  • So where do we go from here?

  • In Tokyo, I meet professor Takeuchi

  • who's developed a form of synthetic muscle

  • that can respond to an electric pulse

  • and expand or contract just like a real muscle.

  • As it does so, the little limb here moves back and forth.

  • Now this sample is only tiny,

  • but imagine the possibilities

  • if synthetic limbs could be made out of this.

  • And what if that could be combined with the technology

  • that reads nerve pulses from the end of an amputee's limb?

  • Perhaps it could respond to touch and feel something hot or sharp,

  • sending a message back up to our brains,

  • just like it does in our body.

  • Understanding those vulnerabilities would make the technology stronger too.

  • Throughout the course of making this work,

  • I've met some incredible people,

  • both using and creating technology.

  • I've seen crazy possibilities

  • for how we'll mend and enhance our bodies.

  • But I've also smiled at a robot,

  • seen a young girl leap through the air on a blade

  • and shaken the hand of a man with no hands

  • who towers emotionally above us all.

  • I'm left in awe of the complexity of the human body.

  • But I also feel that it's not just our bodies,

  • bionics or not,

  • that make us strong,

  • but our emotions and understanding our weaknesses.

  • But I'd like to think of these works as studies,

  • something that we can come back to

  • and carefully observe.

  • A point in our evolution

  • before time runs away with us all.

  • Thank you.

Transcriber: Ivana Korom Reviewer: Joanna Pietrulewicz

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B1 TED technology robot human motion mechanical

Meditations on the intersection of humanity and technology | Olivia Arthur

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/03/17
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