Wednesday, May 6, 2009

On Second Thought...

After further mulling it over, I am reconsidering my Body of Doom idea. This would allow for one cohesive piece, rather than an assortment of pieces. While I still think the Calder idea is a thoughtful one with some great artistic/academic points, I think this one is more about getting into the nitty-gritty of digital design and could be a launching pad for what I want to do in the future (primarily 3D animation and web design-- so I need to get better at them). The Calder project would be so cool and fun, but I think it wouldn't be as much of a design challenge so much as a brain exercise for how to emulate a sculpture/toy artist in a digital format.

First, let me give a better explanation for Body of Doom. I gotta come up with a better title for that.

The idea came from frustrations of my fiance and I upon seeing our Wii-Fit doubles. Mine has a chubby tummy, and while I might, like anyone, have qualms about my body, having a tub is not my primary concern. Fraser's is super fat-- and anyone who has seen Fraser knows he is anything but. The Wii also told us, based on our BMIs, we needed to lose 2 stone (28 pounds) or more each. Is this tough love or just bad measuring? Seeing as the Wii is a machine, I'm guessing it's bad measuring. Of course, these are cartoons with skinny legs, so of course they are not designed to be accurate. But I noticed in online catalogs, such as My Virtual Model, the results are simply designed to be your height and weight, but more perfect. I did a little test (shown below), and noticed that no matter how much your model weighs, it always has slim arms, toned legs, a lifted bum, and a flat stomach.

Here is a 5'4" woman at 106 pounds:

Here she is again, 50 pounds heavier:

The settings I selected are shown below, indicating that you can adjust your shape as more or less evenly proportioned, and frame bigger or smaller, but unless users know what that means or how to assess themselves, they might select (on a bad day) the larger looking figure.

Bottom line, I can't use these models to see how I look because I don't know how I look, and I am guessing there are people out there with more-- or for that matter, less--distorted body image who wouldn't know themselves, either. Documentary programs, such as Supersize vs. Superskinny or How to Lood Good Naked, prove this further. People don't seem to know what healthy is because all we know is what we see, through our moods, in the mirror or the scale, which are terrible indicators of how we really look.

So in this age of body obsession, and given my experience being an American and living in Los Angeles, there needs to be something to show people how they really are shaped, or at least give them a better sense of it, and how to best take care of themselves. There are certain things about your body that cannot be changed, such as your body type: ectomorph, endomorph, or mesomorph-- and muscle fiber types: fast-twitch, slow-twitch-- and your genetic propensity for "problem areas" or things like cellulite and stretch marks (even models have those!). So, to give a basic walkthough of how I see this happening, a user would take their measurements first (a measuring tape would be provided). They would enter these, then be guided through the rest of the process, selecting their age, body type, estimated fitness level, perceived problem area, and estimated eating/drinking/other habits.

The application would then take this info to generate their body-double, a reasonable likeness of the person, as well as an assessment of their lifestyle (health/fitness). From there, they could have the assessment/recommendations e-mailed to them, but then they could also see a projection of themselves at age 70, to see what would happen if they continued their habits, got rid of/took on bad ones, or got rid of/took on good ones.

I have no idea how difficult this will be, and I'd like to figure that out before I decide to do it for the next 586 hours (I've put in some time already trying to figure out what I want to do). Fraser can point me to the right health and fitness studies to read in terms of the scientific knowledge... but in terms of building a program that can work with these permutations might be a challenge. I might get to work on some combinations to start. I am guessing I could make the interface in Flash-- if not, then Processing. The way I see it at the moment, I would need a model made for each of the hip/waist/chest ratio, height, sex, and body type combinations. Then I would need to make a sort of formula for the health advice, aging... I better write it out. I'll be back.

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