Facett is the world’s first modular self-fit hearing aid. I designed it with Blamey Saunders hears and in May 2018 Facett received the 2018 Good Design Award, CSIRO Design Innovation Award and two Best in Class Good Design Awards (Product Design - Medical and Scientific and Social Innovation).
In order to distinguish Facett from traditional hearing aids I worked with the mineralogy collection at Museums Victoria. The crystalline form seeks to shift stigma, to move hearing aids from disability to desirability.
In addition to looking different to traditional hearing aids Facett functions differently - the intuitive magnetic connector bypasses the need to change tiny batteries, an ongoing frustration for older people with arthritic fingers or vision impairment.
I designed Facett through a human-centred approach, spending time with over 25 hearing aid users to understand what it’s really like to depend on a technology to live and work.
Facett was evolved through an iterative approach and 130 of the additive manufactured models, drawings and the final technology have been acquired into the Museums Victoria heritage collection. this recognises the impact of Facett as a great example of Victorian Innovation.
The work is part of an exhibition at Melbourne Museum until July 2018 alongside early bionic eye work.
New Victorian Hearing Aid Tech is Music to all Ears
Melbourne Knowledge Week 2018 presents: Leah Heiss - FACETT | City of Melbourne
The Diabetes Jewellery project was developed in collaboration with Nanotechnology Victoria in 2007-8. The technology allows for pain-free delivery of insulin to the body, replacing syringes. Philosophically the technologies question how we might ‘enable’ our favourite possessions with functionality above and beyond the aesthetic.
Thanks to Arts Victoria AIR Residency program and The Australian Network for Art and Technology
Photographer: Narelle Portanier
The Incus, developed for Blamey Saunders Hears in 2013, enables the user of a hearing aid to tailor their hearing experience on-the-go. The programmer sits between the hearing aid and a mobile device and allows for discreet switching of hearing programs - e.g. from bike riding to a church service – to ensure the user has full hearing in all conditions.
The Incus is part of the IHearYou self fit hearing system that won the inaugural Good Design Award, Social Innovation, 2015 and the Good Design Award Product Design - Medical and Scientific, 2015.
Smart Heart necklace
The Smart Heart necklace was a two year collaboration with St. Vincent's Hospital Melbourne, RMIT University, and the Nossal Institute for Global Health; funded by Gandel Philanthropy.
The project is a wearable cardiac monitor necklace with the capacity to collect, store and remotely transmit cardiac data collected over an extended period for analysis by medical professionals. The neckpiece is aimed at patients who have recently suffered a heart attack or who are experiencing heart rhythm problems and aims to replace the bulky cardiac holter monitor with something that is more integrated into people's daily lives.
This research investigates the potential to therapeutically augment medical jewellery using nanotechnologies and micro-electronics. The project works from the need for well researched and designed emergency jewellery using advanced technologies to identify the wearer’s allergies and identity in times of medical crisis. Developed in collaboration with Keely Macarow and Paul Beckett. Film stills by Wootown Studios and Narelle Portanier, compositing by Tom Frauenfelder
Films and Micro-documentaries
My practice has featured in a number of films and micro-documentaries, often made to align with key events (exhibitions, awards etc.) Here are a few of these micro-documentaries and films to give you a better sense of the scale, scope and focus of my practice. Other links are listed on my Press page.
1. ABC Micro-Documentary "The Innovator": filmed over 2014-15 this micro-documentary, introduced by Phenella Kernebone, explores the emotional considerations underpinning my practice. Created by Carlo Zeccola. Watch film here
2. CUSP - This micro-documentary was developed as part of CUSP - Designing into the next decade, an exhibition of the work of 12 future-focused designers, curated and produced by Object - the Australian Design Centre. Created by Pat Abboud (SBS The Feed)
3. Does Design Matter with Leah Heiss. This interview was filmed after my presentation at AG Ideas 2012 to around 2300 people at Melbourne's Convention and Exhibition Centre.
4. AG Ideas footage: In 2013 I presented to around 2300 people at AG Ideas, the Festival for Design Ideas. This is an excerpt of my 20 minute presentation in which I discuss the critical role of design in improving the therapeutic technologies being developed in the world.
5. The Future is Here: a micro-film about the work I am doing with Elaine Saunders at Blamey Saunders hears - a leading Melbourne hearing technologies company.
The ‘Seed Sensor’ is a swallowable tablet that unfolds like a flower in the digestive tract to detect gas fluctuations in the body (methane, carbon dioxide etc) that may be a symptom of undiagnosed disease. The aim of the project is to achieve a less invasive biomedical application than what is currently available. Developed in collaboration with Paul Beckett. Photographs by Narelle Sheean
Polarity at GOMA
Polarity was developed for the National New Media Art Award at GOMA in August 2012. The work is the latest in a series of works using nano-engineered magnetic liquid (Ferro Fluid) as a central part of a dynamic installation. Polarity and its precursor Polarise (far left), are dynamic installations of hand-blown glass vessels and magnetic liquid which reacts to the presence of magnetic field.
The Arsenic project was developed in collaboration with Nanotechnology Victoria during an Arts Victoria AIR Residency in 2007-8. The Arsenic Neckpiece and water vessels house mesoporous iron oxide (Fe2O3) which remove arsenic and other hazardous chemicals from drinking water. They are designed for people in transit in countries where arsenic is prevalent in found water - such as India and Bangladesh.
Drift is a series of handheld interactive elements that investigate social behaviours. They were developed for the Super Human exhibition at RMIT Gallery in 2009. The luminescent pods pulsate softly - beckoning one to pick them up – engaging our curiosity. When curiosity overcomes and we pick the pods up they react to the holder in playful, confronting and unexpected ways. Drift questions how through imbuing our artefacts with interactivity we may actually be giving them personality traits – the capacity to behave in erratic, complex and unforseen ways. The devices that make up Drift utilise nano-engineered electroluminescent cable, which is activated by sensors.
‘Ether Beat’ encompasses a range of compatible garments and artefacts that sense and transmit heartbeat, facilitating a remote sense of empathy between physically distant loved ones. The garments allow you to ‘wear’ the heartbeat of your remote friend/lover/relative while the Hand Hearts are hand-held devices that beat with the remote heartwave. The research was interested in facilitating both physiological and emotional empathy and was developed during my Masters of Design 2004-2006.
During 2009 I was funded by the Australia Council to develop Material Poetic: creating jewellery-scale artefacts with materials ‘at the extremes of the poetic spectrum’, including shape change metals - which manipulate form when warmed, and magnetic liquid - which changes shape in the presence of a magnetic field.
The project led to further experiments with conductive fabrics as a way to enrich our experience of spatial environments.
Inner’ was developed during the ANAT reSkin Wearable Technologies Laboratory in early 2007. It deals with issues of intrapersonal understanding - focussing on foibles, oddities, idiosyncrasies and eccentricities that may allude to emotional state. The garment senses a nervous habit – in this case touching the sternum – through the sensitive gingko brooch at the neck. This information is transmuted into an internal output: softly activating solenoids which tap against the ribcage, and an external output: subtle pulsating optic fibre along the stomach. It allows for an awareness of our non-conscious behaviours and is the continuation of a series of projects which investigate delicate technologies which augment our relationship with the world and people within it.
Materials: Silk Organza, silver, high density foam, solenoids, Arduino microprocessor, electronics, optic fibre