Drawing with Heart Beats (working title)
The premise of the project is to provide a digital canvas that responds to the heart rates of two different people. In addition to visualizing pulse information, I envision several dials or slide switches to give participants agency to adjust animation variables. My guiding questions currently include: How can I bring people together to collaboratively create and share an engaging experience? How can I make the invisible visible?
I've never encountered a pulse-based collaborative art piece in person, but I found a few related projects online:
The Human Heart and Its Rhythmic Magnificence
Two Heartbeats Become One In This Interactive Installation
Sync Your Heartbeat to a New Interactive Sculpture in Chestnut Hill
Feed a Digital Forest on the Eiffel Tower with Your Heartbeat
‘Impulse’ Turns Passersby’s Heart-Rates Into Light Show
Heartsync by Caitlin Pickall (just found! added to this post in mid-December after I renamed my own project Heart Sync)
Initial Illustrations and Thoughts
I'm imaging users sitting across from each other. Between them a tabletop enclosure marked with outlines for positioning hands, with pulse sensors installed just under the tips of the index finger positions. In this first sketch, projected animations shine to the side. I realized that I'm interested in people spending time together in the moment, and this setup is likely to shift their attentions away from each other and toward the projections.
In this scenario, projections originate from above and onto a shared space between seated participants. With their hands in place over the pulse sensors, their heart beats trigger animations (a set from each person) and nearby dials allow users to adjust the visual outputs.
With respect to the animations, the above is in no way representative of a final iteration. It's just a quick sketch to demonstrate that each heart rate will be represented visually and that varying rates will alter the output in some way: P5 Sketch. For example, if the rates sync perhaps they generate an entirely different visual result. Perhaps other modifications incur if the rates increase or decrease. Perhaps a steady rate also triggers specific changes. I'm encouraged by my 10 Print-inspired experiments this semester in which slight alterations to variables provoked quite noticeable transformations, and it was so much fun! In fact for this project, I'm considering providing options to play with threshold values to further trigger and modify the animations (as shown in the illustrations above).
Materials & Tools*
Laptop Charger and Cable
1x USB Cable
2x Pulse Sensors
1/8" Thick Clear Colorless Acrylic Sheet
Enclosure (from Container Store?)
VGA Cable to Laptop
*subject to change
Preliminary Sensor Testing
Keen to work with well-documented components, these pulse sensors by Joel Murphy and Yury Gitman have been around since 2011. They've published a plethora of information on their website and Github repository. They provided Arduino code for getting started, a Processing sketch for visualizing beats per minutes (BPM), AND to my wonderful surprise and delight, Arduino and Processing sketches for working with two pulse sensors simultaneously!
I used these four mini-projects to get to know my new sensors:
PulseSensor_Amped_Arduino & PulseSensor_Amped_Processing_Visualizer
The good news is that I can access the BPM from more than one sensor at a time. However, each sensor behaves differently, and I'll need to investigate why moving forward. I plan to purchase additional ones anyway, and I'm curious to compare their outputs with my current devices. Perhaps there is some calibration involved that I have yet to discover.
Now that I know I have a viable materials for a project, I'll take the time to thoroughly read Murphy and Gitman's website as I prepare to integrate their code into my forthcoming visuals. I know the latter is dependent my considerations of the conceptual implications of using this material.
To help me think through the technical and conceptual pieces, I'm met with artist and ITP Resident, Lisa Jamhoury, who has used heart beats in some of her work. She helped me to consider the following:
What is the specific interaction? What instructions will I give participants?
These particular sensors require participants to stay still...again, how does this impact the interaction and the instructions?
What sensor data will I use? The live data of each heart beat? Or will I collect the heartbeats over time?
With regards to visuals, literal is helpful. People are used to pulse animations and heart rate graphs. Keep it simple and relatable.
Purchase additional sensors to compare readings (and also to have extra on hand for those just-in-case scenarios)
Continue to collect source material (what are some past pulse-based projects at ITP?)
Clarify the conceptual underpinning(s)
Research and start to sketch animations--this will be key!
Start scouting enclosures possibilities (at The Container Store?)
Consider the sensors' initialization phase with new participants
Consider the title (Heart Beat Sandbox? Drawing <3 to <3 ?, Heart Beat Bubble Maker ?, Heart Sync?)
Update! Please see additional notes from our in-class playtesting session.
Image Credit: Beat by Perlisima Shoeder from the Noun Project