In our new wearable-tech series, The Concepts, The Creators Project investigates the various innovators at work designing wearables that evolve art forms and practices, as well as how these creatives imagine the future of wearable tech. In our first Concepts episode, we zoned in on SubPac, a device that lets users feel sound. In our second episode, we spoke with 16-year-old, DIY inventor Joey Hudy about wearables and their relationships to the Maker movement. Today, we feature Eduardo Garcia, a chef who lost his arm and now uses advanced mechanical prosthetics to continue the pursuit of his passion: food.
In 2011, the Montana-based Garcia, personal chef and founder of Montana Mex, was accidentally electrocuted during a hike, and subsequently lost part of his left arm. Since then, he has experimented with a variety of both digital and mechanical prostheses. He told The Creators Project, "A part of me may always want this wearable tech in the mechanical state until it's developed to a whole new place." The mechanics must match the medium: when it comes to cooking, Garcia needs something that is hyper-responsive, adaptable, and can be both strong and sensitive. He needs something that can pluck a succulent berry without smashing it, for example, and then seamlessly switch to cutting up, say, a tough steak. Simply put, he requires a piece of technology that doesn't quite exist yet.
"Food is so sensual," says Garcia. "You have to be soft but firm at the same time, and that's really hard to do with a titanium hook that's body-powered," he explained. Since he has to wear a prothesis every day, the chef has found ways to adapt using technology that does exist, but imagines a future wherein wearables are digitally-enhanced. But he won't sacrifice any utilitarian uses, either. "If it doesn't suit my immediate needs.. I won't use or wear it," he claims.
On the grand scale of wearable technology, Garcia is inspired by the devices currently available to amputees, but for a chef whose hands are constantly in-and-out of water and are consistently facing various climate conditions (be it hot ovens, or freezers)—using a computer-enhanced device is a risk— a single drop of water could fry his prosthetic.
In our documentary, viewable above, Garcia discusses the ideal wearable for a master of herbs and spices like himself: "If I were going to dream something up, it would be a non-harnessed, self-fastening prosthetic that has total sensitivity to touch, and total temperature sensitivity." He wants a faster, more adaptable tool, that offers him the ability to multi-task and to feel everything that's going on in the process. On top of those adaptations, Garcia imagines a prosthetic limb that has an LED screen that could display pH readings and instant-bacteria warnings. Fingers equipped with suction cups would also ensure that even the slipperiest foods wouldn't be a threat. Such a wearable could give Anthony Bourdain or Eddie Huang a run for their money in the kitchen any day.
Garcia is open to trying any wearable, and is optimistic about the future of the technology. "People want to be wearing more devices, clothing, tech, fashion, that allow them to up the ante. So if you bring in wearables that add to what you bring to the equation every day, then why not?"
For more on Garcia, visit his company site here: https://www.montanamex.com/