Summer Chen

Innovation & Design


AI & Intimacy
Featured on: Dezeen
Exhibited @ Dutch Design Week 2023

Project Duration: 4 months
Role: Somatic Interface Designer

Enigma is a collection of interactive intimate wear that facilitates explorations of self-intimacy by writing personalised erotica with touch.

My project started as a design exploration of ageing and intimacy. My aim was to design a new kind of sensual experience to help post-menopausal women to recalibrate, reconnec and rediscover their body and explore self-intimacy in later life.

As a woman in her early 30s, ageing has only recently become a topic in the foreground of my life. Following my father’s cancer diagnosis at the end of the summer of 2022, ‘getting old’ began to occupy the primary spot in my mind. Overwhelmed with the fear of losing my dad to cancer, I kept thinking about my mom. What will happen to her when my dad dies? How will she navigate life without her lifelong partner? Will she be able to meet all of her needs?

These worries brought me to the soul of this project: intimacy. What is it? Does everybod need it? Who designed mine? How does intimacy evolve as we age? Am I in control of that evolution? If I could design my own intimacy, how would I do it? This project began as a quest for answers, and with a realisation that designing for elderly people right now is the same as designing for my future self.

The result of this design exploration is Enigma, and though it has its roots in designing for our ageing women population, what I’ve made has a much broader impact.

Enigma is a collection of interactive intimate wear that facilitates explorations of self-intimacy by writing personalised erotica with touch.

Each garment in my collection is seamlessly fitted with haptic sensors. My 'Touch-to-Text’ system interprets the wearer's tactile engagement as a mode of communication, and interfaces with generative A.I. to transform bodily prose into tantalising, personalised narratives.

By transforming physical intimacies into private stories that can be read or listened to on your personal device, Enigma offers an empowering tool for women to explore, understand and express their self-intimacy.

At its core, Enigma is a design exploration of human sensual experiences and their relation to narrative creation. My intention is to inspire curiosity and conversations about the ways in which generative A.I. can be utilised in pursuit of a more humane experience. This collection illuminates a path for further investigation into these uncharted waters; it is not just a project, but a paradigm shift in the world of human↔A.I. interaction.

Why Erotica?

I chose erotica as Enigma’s form of literary expression for its inherent connection to intimate experiences, emotions, and the exploration of desire.

The intimacy and personalization of erotica promote a deeper connection to the self. Writer Stella Fosse puts it like this:

“As we write about erotic experience, we affirm our sensual connection with the world around us. We celebrate the best aspects of our erotic lives and explore our fantasies. This is so liberating, because anything can happen on the page. When we write erotica, we connect with the sensuality of everything that exists.”

By interpreting bodily interactions as erotic narratives, I seek to normalise self-intimacy and sensual expression. Reading the stories our bodies tell lets us reflect on our relationship to desire and touch, fostering acceptance and positive self-image.

Why Lingerie?

I chose lingerie as the base material for Enigma’s somatic interface due to the sensual nature of its relationship with women, and certain physical properties of lingerie design. Lingerie can play a significant role in a woman’s navigation of self-intimacy and body positivity. The context in which it is worn is a private one, a comfortable one, an exciting one.

And because it is often designed to feel as if a ‘second skin’, intimate wear serves as the perfect medium for interfacing between one’s body and the touch-to-text technological innovation that allows for this unique form of erotic writing.

Why Generative A.I.?

The use of generative A.I. in this project is deliberate for several reasons.

First and foremost is its ability to quickly interpret somatic input as written narratives. I could have chosen to employ a human to do this; but giving another human access to the stories of your body and then asking them to retell those stories violates the core values of this project. By leveraging generative A.I. for this task, not only can Enigma provide real-time experiences (a human would take far longer) but I hope it maintains the feelings of privacy and ownership that are crucial to the explorations I seek to inspire in women. In the end, it’s just you, your body, and you.

The use of A.I. also enhances the project's accessibility and inclusivity. It does not require the user to possess writing skills or literary creativity: all you need is a body, and curiosity. Enigma allows women to express themselves in written form through touch and motion, democratising the creation of erotica and offering an avenue of written self-expression to a broader population.

Generative A.I. is particularly suitable for this novel application due to its ability to create rich and meaningful outputs from relatively sparse prompts—in this case, the touch and movement data collected from the Enigma wear. By analysing patterns of sequence, intensity, and rhythm, the A.I. is capable of generating eloquent prose that echo the wearer's interactions. Furthermore, A.I. tooling’s generative nature makes every narrative unique, mirroring the personal and individual nature of self-intimacy.

Other features:

︎︎︎LS:N Global_Sensory lingerie uses AI to generate personalised erotica
︎︎︎Tabi Labo Japan_触れるとエロティカを紡ぐAIランジェリー「Enigma」
︎︎︎Medium_Designer Summer Chen combines AI and sensor-embedded lingerie to create Enigma