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Between Man and Machine: The Korean designer will present his Haptic Intelligentsia project during the Ventura Lambrate event at Milan Design Week.

Text by Anna Battista

Human and machine interactions always fascinated researchers. But, while in the past such applications, interactions and relations were often considered as the realm of science and sci-fi, new studies have focused in the last few years on how to apply specific human resources and machine interfaces to other fields such as design and product development. Moving from the greatest dilemmas confronted by modern artisans – how can machinery replace human hand and how can we balance man and machine’s potential – Korean designer Joong Han Lee developed the “Haptic Intelligentsia” project, meant to combine craftsmanship with computerised technology and therefore rediscover the importance of manual labour even in a super efficient and automated world.

After receiving his undergraduate degree in Interactive Product Design from Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, Joong Han Lee continued his studies with an MA at the Design Academy Eindhoven where he focused on Contextual Design. During his first year in Eindhoven he unofficially launched his Studio Homunculus, hoping to spark up a dialogue between human behavior, psychology, and technology, and started his Haptic Intelligentsia project. The latter consists in a 3-D printing machine with an extruding gun attached to a haptic interface that allows the user to intervene on the design adding it a human finish, allowing the maker to rediscover the pleasure in the act of making, a pleasure that often derives from slow rhythms.

Together with Thomas Maincent’s “SpiderFarm” and Thomas Vailly’s “The Metabolic Factory”, Joong Han Lee’s “Haptic Intelligentsia” will be part of a collective presentation by Z33 at the Ventura Lambrate event during Milan Design Week. The collective event is a preview of “The Machine”, an exhibition that will open in June in Belgium.

ZOOT Magazine: What inspired the Haptic Intelligentsia project?

Joong Han Lee: Over the past few years I have had many discussions with my colleagues, trying to find the dividing line between “hand-made” and “machine-made”. I’m quite good at using several 3D software programs, being able to draw and visualise complex shapes freely, and the rapid prototyping machine would print out the exact shape I designed. Yet, I still felt a bit distanced from these 3D printed models. Despite my creations behind the computer screen, the process of making was missing a human touch. So, I decided to investigate this from a craftsman’s perspective.

Z: Which could be the applications in the design industry of this device?

JHL: The device I modified for my project has been around for many years. The so-called haptic force-feedback device gives the user the sensation that you are actually touching the virtual object being constructed on the computer. Many design industries have already been using it to virtually carve and mould 3D objects. These 3D objects, however, still remain behind the screen, unless they are printed with the 3D printer. My project flips the making order and the user can actually feel the virtual object, without looking at the monitor, and then visualising it by applying the physical material.

Z: Would you like to develop the Haptic Intelligentsia project further and maybe highlight more the human intervention aspect of the device?

JHL: Haptic Intelligentsia is just one of my many projects, which often deal with human intervention. I think that design should always reflect human nature. My studio focuses on human-centred design to provoke a dialogue related to human behavior, psychology, and technology.

Z: What are your future plans for Haptic Intelligentsia?

JHL: At the moment I am working on making more defined objects, since I initially focused on the process aspect in design so now I can have fun with the objects.

Z: There is at the moment a lot of interest about 3D printing, do you think that in future these devices will have wider applications?

JHL: With no doubt. I think this is just the beginning. Nowadays most households have an inkjet printer, but the 3D printer will become more and more available and will eventually have its own place next to the inkjet printer. Wider applications will of course also be developed along the way.

Z: Who has been the greatest influence on your career choices?

JHL: When I was growing up in Korea, I came across a book about Danish designer Verner Panton. I immediately fell in love with his works and became interested in design. I have a couple of miniature Panton chair I bought while I visited the Vitra Museum in Germany!

Z: Would you like to collaborate with a product designer/architect/fashion designer one day?

JHL: I am always looking for a collaboration, and I would not mind as long as they share the same vision in design. I also like working with people who are not from the design field as they can bring different values and knowledge to what I do.

Z: What are you working on at the moment?

JHL: Several projects still dealing with process and human interaction.

Joong Han Lee’s Haptic Intelligentsia will be part of the Z33 a preview of The Machine, Ventura Lambrate, Milan, 17th-22nd April 2012. The Machine will be on from 1 June 2012 at C-Mine (Genk, Belgium).

All images © Joong Han Lee

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