The connection between the digital and the analogue, between virtual sets of data and physical expressions of data, continues to fascinate creatives who work at the intersection of art and technology. We recently covered a project that uses brain scanners to assemble 3-D models of make-believe creatures based on children’s reactions to different images, and then prints them with a MakerBot. Now, we’ve come across a similar project—but with a little more Etsy, a little less MakerBot.
NeuroKnitting is an experiment that uses an EEG headset to record how the brain reacts to music. It then translates that data into a pattern that can be realized in yarn via a hacked knitting machine. Each participant listens to a section of Bach’s "Goldberg Variations" while wearing a headset which measures relaxation, excitement, and cognitive load. Those features are then turned in a knitting pattern that’s sent to a knitting machine and turned into a scarf, the creators explain on their website: "Hence, every stitch of a pattern corresponds to a unique brain state stimulated by the act of listening. It means the user’s affective response to music is captured every second and memorized in the knitted garment pattern."
I spoke with Mar Canet, who created the project along with Varvara Guljajeva as part of a series of work intended "to show the amazing possibilities that digital knitting machines bring as digital fabrication tool." Canet points out that knitting machines are old and have generally fallen out of favor. But by upgrading to function digitally—with an open-source platform called Knitic that lets the machine read digital patterns and allows real-time control over the needles—there’s no reason why knitting can’t be as interesting (and high-tech) as laser cutters and 3-D printers.
"Textile fabrication has been overlooked," they write on their site. "An electronic knitting machine was the first digital manufacturing tool at home. In the end, it is a shame to forget early fabrication methods, which can be adjusted for digital age needs."
While everyone obsesses about the 3-D printing-fueled manufacturing revolution, NeuroKnitting is a reminder that textiles shouldn’t be left out of the picture.