Artist Heidi Hinder is turning RFID-enabled hugs into monetary transactions to prompt a debate on how we assign value and trust to virtual currencies and contactless payments.
Through her project
Money No Object -- part of Watershed's Craft and Technology Residencies
programme launched this January -- Hinder has been working with the
Pervasive Media Studio's technology team to translate simple human
interactions into payments. A trained jewellery maker, she was driven to
question the social context of monetary exchanges in a technological
world in light of emerging new payment forms and the ongoing financial
"I'd always wanted the objects I make to trigger some
kind of experience and something beyond themselves," she told
Wired.co.uk. "This seemed like the perfect opportunity to do that by
incorporating digital technology. Currency obviously represents the most
dominant form of value in culture, and I guess we see it as a form of
communication and a bond -- a system of trust we all put faith in. It
has this other profound significance that often you don't think about
when paying for something with change."
In the UK physical money
is stamped with the Queen's likeness, reminding us of the nation's
politics and history, while the scripted words "I promise to pay the
bearer on demand the sum of X pounds" adorn our paper notes. The coinage
and notes we use bear greater significance when it comes to the promise
we are making and the relationship with who we are giving it to than we
might think when making rapid, daily purchases. Debit and credit cards
further separate us from this original meaning, while contactless or
online payments all but eliminate the human contact that reminds us of
the importance of the action.
"I was looking at the value of
human interaction and how that's becoming increasingly valuable -- there
will be fewer opportunities to interact if digital currencies increase.
People will be more and more behind their screens and physically
isolated. With contactless payments there's no contact at all -- you
wave something at a reader and may not even make eye contact with a
vendor in a shop."
To reinstate this interaction and its
importance, Hinder embeded RFID chips into objects that wearers use to
make transactions -- those transactons are still convenient and speedy,
but a social context or interaction is returned. Her chip embedded rings
and gloves allow two people shaking hands or high-fiving to make a
transaction (one person has to wear the bulkier tag-reader), while
brooches authorise a payment on contact when two people hug. An absoute
winner as far as Wired.co.uk is concerned, anyone with a chip embedded
in their shoe can carry out a tap dance on the spot to make a payment --
perhaps a little more inconvenient, but certainly entertaining. It
stops to make you think and it switches the impetus from an external
force -- a bank that issued your card or a tech giant that made your
NFC-enabled phone -- back to the paying party. And so far, people love
"Money is something everybody can relate to and it's such a
hot topic. I was hoping people would see it in a new light and in a
playful way -- with all the financial crises going on -- and reconsider
value and what that might mean. To explore an alternative economic idea
of sorts in a playful way.
"I suppose a lot of people are very
divided over the hug in particular: they're either really keen to
experiment and hug it out, or say 'oh gosh I can't I'm far too British'.
But actually both of those things signify a lot to do with money and
currency, because it's awkward to exchange something that people have
such a strong feeling about. You do enter into this contract,Online
shopping for chipcard.
if you like, and that need for trust that you have to have within that
system of money in order for it to work is huge. Obviously money is also
a form of communication, so physical gestures are different ways in
which we can communicate."
It's not just the human interaction
and monetary value Hinder wants us to get thinking about -- she also
cultured coin bacteria to demonstrate those communications we don't
realise we're making when paying.
"When you make a monetary
transfer, even on your laptop, there's a transfer of bacteria
potentially. So with the handshake we looked at making gloves from a
kind of nanomaterial that inhibits the spread of bacteria -- in theory
you could then make clean transactions."
For her work to have
any kind of practical purpose in the real world the technology has to be
as discreet as possible, so Hinder is working with the team behind
Imogen Heap's wireless music-making gloves to see how invisible she can
make the tech. Having upgraded the humble high five in just three
months,Learn how an embedded microprocessor in a iccard
can authenticate your computer usage and data. she's taking meetings
this week to hopefully acquire more funding that will help see her
concept transported to real world transactions -- specifically in a
museum setting. Here, Hinder imagines it replacing the too-often ignored
"You can experience all that cultural richness
and wealth for free, and they ask for nominal donation which obviously a
lot of people don't give. This project of physical gestures could
create a microcurrency within the microeconomy of the museum. I suppose I
see museums as forms of banks they have this inestimable value within
them, but within the form of objects. It would make payments a fun,
interactive and artistic experience,Choose from the largest selection
of indoortracking in the world.The Motoroladrycabinet
Engine is an embedded software-only component of the Motorola wireless
switches. but with some benefit to the museum financially."
the unpredictability of the markets and the price of gold -- a usually
trusted marker -- plummeting, not to mention the permanent ups and downs
of Bitcoin, Hinder says it's even harder today to find where value
lies. We might be in the dark about where things will lead in the next
few decades,Large collection of quality indoorpositioningsystem
at discounted prices. but we're no doubt in for some big changes. So
it's always a nice reminder of the human spirit to know an artist/maker
can get strangers to hug and break into spontaneous dance in the name of