TED Fellow Chris Woebken and his animal superpowers

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The week of TED2011 kicked off with the TED Fellows pre-conference, where an extraordinary group of people shared some really fascinating work. The TED Blog spoke with a few Fellows after their presentations; look for more Q&As all week.

Chris Woebken has created a device that gives you ant-vision, a billboard that translates for bats, and a suit that gives you the super-strength of a beetle. We sat down with Chris to hear more.

If you could have any animal superpower, what would it be?

I’ve been thinking recently about what it would be like to be able to enhance your sense of smell and possibly interact with hormones in a different way, for example smells related to mating and other biological behaviors. I did this research using moths to detect pheromones; you can actually train moths and use them as bio-sensors by hardwiring their antennas, tuning them in to other olfactory substances than they are usually able to detect and communicate. That’s a pretty crazy superpower though.

What led you to this kind of work?

I have a background as an interface designer working for Adobe Systems, which I did for a couple of years. But then I got very interested in how you design more immersive and experimental experiences that simulate future behaviors and allow people to imagine what it would be like, for example, if you could talk to bats. I like to approach design with a playful theme, but then also try to visually create a deeper meaning, indicative of what the future could be like.

Learn more about Chris Woebken’s project Animal Superowers >>


All photos: TED / James Duncan Davidson