Digital Umbilical

Body intelligence

Project: Digital Umbilical

Partners: Body intelligence collective, Dansathon, Sainsbury Wellcome Centre



Can dance and bio-technology have impact at a social level and create human connection?

Merge tech and performance to enhance intimacy between a performer and an audience member.

© Andreea Tufescu Photography

Despite living in a period of ‘high connection’, our society is experiencing increased feelings of loneliness affecting people in all social groups independent of their wealth or status. How do we truly connect to others in the age of machines and digital connection? How can we use technology to deepen the connection to our body and to enhance intimacy between a performer and an audience ?


Digital umbilical is not a concept, It is an experience. We believe we can allow people to connect and reconnect with each other, via a powerful, unique experience. Eye to eye, heartbeat to heartbeat, breath to breath.


We are building an intelligent system linking an audience member to a performer in a series of one to one experiences. The setup use sensors to measure physiological responses of both performer and audience member, using the data produced to modulate a responsive environment of light, sound and textures and facilitate intimacy, empathy and trust.  The performance is following the rules of a third intelligence: a ‘digital womb’ that has true empathy for human experience, and senses our physiological cycles to create an intimate and comfortable interaction.

The system comprises of a bespoke wearable device that senses breath, heart beat, pulse and small chest movement (through EMG and ECG sensors) and collects physiological data from the performer. The heartbeat of the audience is captured through a fingertip pulse sensor.  Mutual bio-feedbacks are fed through a neural network control software that learns how to adjust the controlled environment (sound and light) to facilitate intimacy.


We plan to distribute the performance to various audiences around the world by using a standard format to allow for a series of one to one performances to happen simultaneously at multiple locations.


This project is one of the first three winners of Dansathon, a connected, collaborative, European event to explore the innovations shaping the dance sector in the future.


Body Intelligence is supported by the Sainsbury Wellcome Center, looking at creating actionable insight in the field of intelligence and machine learning.

Partners: Dansathon, Sadlers Well London, BNB Paribas, Sainsbury Wellcome Centre.

With thanks: Goncalo Lopes, Ghislaine Boddington, Danbee Kim.