bioLogic Lining Yao, Wen Wang, Guanyun Wang, Helene Steiner, Chin-Yi Cheng, Jifei Ou, Oksana Anilionyte, Hiroshi Ishii

bioLogic is growing living actuators and synthesizing responsive bio-skin in the era where bio is the new interface. We are imagining a world where actuators and sensors can be grown rather than manufactured, being derived from nature as opposed to engineered in factories.
A millennium ago, a Japanese samurai’s quest into battle took an unexpected turn. An abrupt attack in the midst of an evening meal led to a surprising culinary discovery. What was found on his journey was a previously undiscovered bacteria, Bacillus Subtilis Natto. The microorganism lived inside dry rice stalks, which were woven into bags to carry soybeans in that age. Ever since this coincidental discovery, the mysterious bacteria has become an established fermentation tool for the preparation of nattō, a soybean-based dish in Japan.
A thousand years into the future, a new behavior of the ancient bacteria has been unearthed: the expansion and contraction of the natto cells relative to atmospheric moisture. Enchanted by this phenomenon, a quest into the redefinition of actuation has become the ambition of the bioLogic team.
bioLogic seeks a harmonious perspective, where biological and engineering approaches flow in sync. These animate cells are harvested in a bio lab, assembled by a micron-resolution bio-printing system, and transformed into responsive fashion, a “Second Skin”. We can now observe the self-transforming biological skin activated by living bacteria. The synthetic bio-skin reacts to body heat and sweat, causing flaps around heat zones to open, enabling sweat to evaporate and cool down the body through an organic material flux. In collaboration with New Balance, bioLogic is bringing what once may have lived in the realm of fantasies into the world of sportswear.
bioLogic is the latest instance of Tangible Media Group’s Radical Atoms vision.



Tangible Media Group at MIT Media Lab is leading the project in collaboration with MIT Dept. of Chemical Engineering, Royal College of Art and New Balance. The team members come from diverse backgrounds including design, art, science and engineering.
Lining Yao, concept creation, interaction design and fabrication, MIT Media Lab. Email
Wen Wang, biotechnology and material science, MIT Dept. of Chemical Engineering. Email
Guanyun Wang, industrial design and fabrication, MIT Media Lab/Zhejiang University. Email
Helene Steiner, interaction design, MIT Media Lab/Royal College of Art Email
Chin-Yi Cheng, computational design and simulation, MIT Architecture Email
Jifei Ou, concept design and fabrication, MIT Media Lab. Email
Oksana Anilionyte, fashion design, MIT Media Lab/Royal College of Art Email
Prof. Hiroshi Ishii, direction, Tangible Media Group, MIT Media Lab Email
Thanks to:
Supporting fashion concept developer / trend forecaster
Alana Solá, Fashion Designer. Email
New Balance
Council for the Arts at MIT
Dubai Design Week 2015
Scientific Support
Prof. Ozgur Sahin
Xi Chen
Prof. Rohit Karnik
Da Lu
Prof. Xuanhe Zhao
Teng Zhang
Kang Zhou


Beyond “Second Skin”, the bio-hybrid film can be utilized in other contexts as well: Bio-hybrid flowers blossom and wilt reversible with both shape and color changing; a living tea leaf signals through transformation when the tea is ready; or a lampshade sculpts light activated by the light bulb. Imagination unfolds the power of the tiny bacteria.


CHI 2015 Best Talk Award; CHI 2015 Best Paper Honorable Mention
Lining Yao, Jifei Ou, Chin-Yi Cheng, Helene Steiner, Wen Wang, Guanyun Wang, and Hiroshi Ishii. 2015. bioLogic: Natto Cells as Nanoactuators for Shape Changing Interfaces. In Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '15). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 1-10.