Lady Gaga’s steak gown and the Bjork-in-a-swan outfit feel as plain as a white t-shirt compared to these MIT-designed threads. They’re 3D-printed, look like human innards, and could tote around live, glowing bacteria.
Designer Neri Oxman, who works at the MIT Media Lab, describes the look as a “wearable microbial factory” in an interview with New Scientist. The idea is for the pants to hold microorganisms like E.coli bacteria and cyanobacteria. Why? To see if living bacteria can be manipulated to perform certain tasks: For example, if exposed to light, the cyanobacteria might create sucrose or sugar via photosynthesis, which engineered E.coli could consume to produce flashing proteins.
This visceral wearable is made of see-through plastic in the areas where those organisms can hang out and slurp up light. Oxman’s work focuses on combining synthetic biology and design. Working with 3D printing company Stratasys, her goal is to demonstrate how microorganism-filled wearables could help humans of the future explore other planets by manipulating the new environment. According to her MIT site: “Living matter within these structures will ultimately transform oxygen for breathing, photons for seeing, biomass for eating, biofuels for moving and calcium for building.”
But the problem with this latest guts garb is that it’s rigid and hard to wear—that’s because this particular wearable was hardened with UV light as part of its construction.
An alternative that’s been suggested is to incorporate a smaller version of these 3D-printed, bacteria-carrying pieces atop larger, more traditional items of clothing. I’m holding out for a baseball cap with a beetle-filled terrarium mounted on the lid.
Image credit: Jonathan Williams and Paula Aguilera, Mediated Matter