We have opened submissions for the Design to De-stress Challenge in conjunction with the upcoming St-W #119 Nov/Dec issue. Each Challenge addresses a different topical issue, which we ask designers to respond to.
The Challenge series in St-W magazine began in our of this year, under the section called Talents. Inspired by Elon Musk’s plans for space colonization, we asked five young designers to create an essential travel item for a trip to Mars. Pamm Hong was one of them.
Tell us about yourself.
PAMM HONG: I was born in Singapore, and raised through a series of misadventures around the world. I'm a graduate of the MA Material Futures course at Central Saint Martins, London, and I was listed as one of the Top 20 Disruptors for the Global Futures Forum 2016.
What is your concept for the Mars Challenge?
Totem is a personal 360° camera with a generative AI that studies facial and voice recognition to measure an astronaut’s stress level and mood. It functions as a personal companion, as well as a totem for astronauts to curate their memories during the high-risk mission in the event that their journey ends prematurely. As everything an astronaut does is on public record, Totem uses private moments to study user behaviour and provide personal psychological feedback.
Totem's AI aggregates its readings and glows in different colours to furnish the user with simple visual feedback. For instance, yellow/green for neutral/happy, and purple/blue means morose.
Is it comparable to the technology in Spike Jonze’s film Her?
The operating system is similar, in that it's powered by an emotionally intelligent AI that becomes a user companion. The differences lie in post-usage. Totem is designed to be part of a larger infrastructure, the Mars Memoriam, where first-nation citizens can pay their respects to previous cadets.
What inspired Totem?
Death and memory form a common lineage in my human-centred projects, like Momento Mori, a critical re-design of death in the age of social media. Momento Mori was a response to research that unearthed the figures of dead Facebook accounts and investigated how social media could play a more dynamic role in our postmortem existence. For Totem, my concept for the hybridity of a personal companion and a digital epitaph was driven by the psychology of astronauts, the time taken for each mission, and the overwhelming fatality factors.
Do you take a different approach to projects for Earth and Mars?
Not at all. Both places are powered by the human factor and our natural instinct for exploration, whether through technology or manned missions. My approach was informed by detailed research and forecasts into the technological feasibility of 360° cameras, the commodification of VR tools, and the drivers for emotionally competent AI integration into our everyday lives.