This week, The New School’s Parson School of Design showcased theses from its Design and Technology Master of Fine Arts program. I went to the first day of the show (it runs from May 18 to May 22 in New York City) and saw a number of beautiful, interactive projects–but I was especially struck by three web and mobile apps that have relevance beyond the MFA classroom.
The Future Food Hack, creator Jimmy Tang told Fusion in an email, “aims to create a dialog on the question: how do we envision feeding ourselves in the future?”
Tang’s project may well prompt a discussion about food, but more likely it will spark imaginings of life in a dystopian, survivalist future. His project website presents five DIY kits that give you everything you need to, essentially, hack your food. The “Fiberful” kit gives you what you need to fill a traditional burger patty with fiber…
… while “Papier” includes ingredients for a gluten-free, low calorie edible paper snack.
“Spirubrew” has what you need to make the algae Spirulina indoors, “Agara” gives you what you need to grow plants without soil, “Skinseed” gives you the tools to build a device that will let you grow food out of your skin.
Eat For also examines our relationship with food, but where Future Food Hack aims to solve the challenges of the future, Eat For looks at the problems of today–like, where am I going to get lunch, and what am I going to eat?
Designer Joo-Hee Yun told Fusion in an email that Eat For is a solution to a recurring problem she faced while working in an office: “Among the several daily stressful tasks I had to deal with, selecting what I wanted for lunch was the most difficult.”
Eat For is like Yelp for the health conscious–you can search for foods that are good for your heart, your skin, your nails, etc., specify if you’re looking for breakfast, lunch or dinner and if you want a recipe or restaurant recommendation.
For Yun, the app is also a way to reorient stressful attitudes towards food: “In the past,” she said, “If I wanted to order a bowl of Bibimbap, all I would think about was the rice it came with … I couldn’t enjoy any of my meals. Now, with my focus on nutritional value, I am able to see all of the benefits that come with the meal due to its abundance of fresh vegetables. This shifting of focus has helped me see that I am eating a bowl full of fiber and vitamins, not solely carbohydrates.”
This app also aims to solve a problem, but one most of us don’t often think about–how the blind use the Internet.
Depict designer Niamh Parsely explained to Fusion via email that tools for the Internet-browsing blind, like screen readers, are limited: “A big problem this community is faced with is… lack of accessibility on the web. One example of this is the misuse of alt tags in HTML to describe images.”
When a screen reader comes across an HTML image tag, it reads out the description text provided–which is often lacking. A user dissatisfied with the alt-text can use Depict to crowdsource a better explanation of the image in question, says Parsely, and the sighted users can, in turn, write and vote up the most accurate description. Simple and effective.