Thoughtworks Arts

Seismic Sense

Residency Season: Summer 2016

Project Team

Seismic Sense is a wearable sensory organ which allows the wearer to feel earthquakes and other seismic activity, as they happen, anywhere in the world.

As one of the founding members of the Cyborg Foundation, artist Moon Ribas is engaged in exploring transhumanism through permanent implants. The creation of the Seismic Sense wearable prototype allows Moon and the team to learn and reflect about how the sense might operate as a permanent implant.

This device is an example of an ‘exosense’, an external sensory organ. This means it is designed to be worn and felt consistently, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The constant stream of sensations will allow Moon to develop an instinctual relationship with global seismic activity.

Moon\s foot with a device strapped to it
Moon wearing the Seismic Sense

The wearable works by communicating over a cellular connection with a cloud-based server, which regularly parses a public US Geological Survey data source for new quake data. When seismic activity is detected, the intensity, distance and duration are represented by small vibrations felt by the wearer. This interaction is based on an existing implant Moon has in her arm, which responds simply to the intensity of earthquakes.

As a dancer and choreographer, Moon intends to use the Seismic Sense in her performances, notably in the peice Waiting for Earthquakes. In this performance, Moon waits and responds to any sensations of seismic activity as she feels them.

Moon shared how Seismic Sense was conceived and developed at TEDxPorto “Design yourself: How to connect with nature through technology”, and TEDxManchester “Chip implants to enhance my connection with the planet”.

Seismic Sense has also been featured in publications including WIRED, Next Nature, BBC, Quartz, and Red Bull Music Academy.