In biology the close and prolonged interactions between living beings are known as symbiosis, which, in the past, was restricted for relations where both organisms benefit from the interaction but has a broader meaning now. Multispecies study, a field that tries to understand life on earth as one entirely connected system that has coevolved together, multiplying and spreading beyond their own physical form, is now emerging. Yet there is an invisible form of symbiosis that happens around our body and other living things – the symbiosis with microbes, the oldest and tiniest life form on earth, which we need for every basic function in our body. Our research has shown an interesting symbiotic association happening between humans, microbes, and dogs. Specifically, the sharing of dog microbiota is beneficial for humans.
We want to enhance the exchange of microbiota and bring the benefits to more people, especially those who don’t have a chance to live with dogs. What if we can build a microbiota station to introduce dog microbiota to the public in a fun and elegant way?
Microbio Bank is a public installation that acts as a bank and station for the communication between dogs and humans. It is an integration of collection, production, and distribution of dog microbiota. It consists of 3 parts. The bottom part acts as a dog playground, which can collect skin microbes from dogs. People can also drop in dog stool in the middle part, where the production for microbiota samples happens. After the whole process, the microbiota bubbles will be released from the trumpet in the top part.
The production process involves different steps, from sampling, dilution, colonies, purify, to quality check, fermentation, centrifugation, freeze drying and integration. Every time when people drop in dog stool, the machine will be triggered to release bubbles that contain beneficial dog microbiota, which can be screened, assessed, and selected through the evolution process.
This project was an interdisciplinary collaboration between designer, artist, and biologist. The process thus involved scientific research, lab experiment, and design ideation, and prototyping.The detailed process can be found here.
Sharebiota was invited to exhibit for the Biodesign Here Now at London Design Festival 2018. We showcased the toolkit for collecting dog microbiota and probiotics products made from the microbiota selected through the process above. By applying it to hands, for instance, people can benefit, as well as transfer the beneficial microbiota through petting the dog.