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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Festival della Creativita and some research

We are so excited to have been accepted to Festival della Creativita (http://www.festivaldellacreativita.it/) in Florence, Oct. 15-18, 2009. They needed something around Interaction Design and social interaction and we are very eager to develop the Biometric Social Interaction (BSI) system further.

For this festival, our first thought was to create a structured experience wherein people come in and have meetings and record their biometric data but we're not so sure structured is the way to go. Instead, we'll concentrate on the experience of discovering your biometric self. We'll set it up in workshop style, giving people the opportunity to play with different types of sensors and to create their own biometric 'footprint' (for lack of a better term). We're still brainstorming so comment or email geekphysical@gmail.com if you have ideas!

We've been exploring some interesting articles. Wired featured "Know Thyself: Tracking Every Facet of Life, from Sleep to Mood to Pain, 24/7/365" by Gary Wolf recently and it has some great insights into self-tracking and recording biometric information. We're taking this into consideration; our data isn't scientific, its an approximation, though Dzl has mad crazy filtering skills, it will still be an approximation and certainly nothing to base one's lifestyle habits on but it will be interesting to look at Gary's suggestions of bias, and random recording as a solution to people being biased about their own recording. This article stemmed from one about the Nike+ system and people tracking their running stats.

We recognize the multitude of tracking going on, and were enlightened to a lot more types of tracking through Gary's article but our focus remains strong - how does biometric data change, inspire or affect in some way, social interaction? How do people's attitudes and communications change as a result of knowledge of their biometric data?

We continue to brainstorm....

Flirting in Sweden

Our biometrics system started with the Critical Corset, but upon realizing that heart rate alone wasn't going to give us enough feedback we moved forward; heart rate plus temperature was the first adventure.

At the Half Machine event in the summer of 2008 we set up a booth where people could see their heart rate and temperature broadcast visually across a wall. We played a little game where people would try to entice Dzl's heart rate and temperature into going up and some people tried on the system. It was fun and taught us a lot about people's willingness to try new strange things. For one, it was difficult to convince them to put on a bunch of wires, and as a second thing, personal boundaries are easily crossed once biometrics are involved. People, random strangers were hugging and petting the wearer hoping to elicit a response. Very interesting. But some improvements needed to be made.

Photo below from video of Half Machine 2008 exploration of biometrics:

Taking it to the next level:

We knew that we had to change the system to make people feel more comfortable using it so we made it wireless, furthermore we developed two systems that could be worn simultaneously so two people could run around the room, interacting with each other, or with others, and their results could be individually displayed. So we created two tiny boxes, each with a radio transmitter inside and two electrodes attached. The wearer would put the electrodes on their chest, the wires would go to the match-box sized box in their pocket and the signal would transmit to a receiver in the center of the room.

Box with electrodes.
Wireless receiver.

We took this entire ensemble to a networking event in Sweden, Creative Clash (creativeclash.se). Here, there was already an expectation that people could interact and share information, since it was a networking event. We thought it might spice things up a bit to have something to initiate conversations, an "excuse for conversation" as the wise Neil Strauss might explain. People had something interesting to look at, a projection of two different colored heart beats with temperature readings beside them. Now the tricky part was to find some willing participants to supply those heart rates. Our first courageous people were a trio of guys, sitting together enjoying a beer, but slightly off to the side, and not really networking as much as they could be. After some convincing one agreed to wear the system, and after observing his information with his friends, began quickly to figure out that he could use this as a conversation starter. The following takes place:

- Approaches girl
- Guy:"Hi there, you see that heart rate up there? That's mine"
- Girl: "Wow, that's cool how are you doing that?"
- Guy: Explains what he's wearing
- Conversation ensues, followed quickly by the magic words "Lets see if we can change my heart rate, get it up higher maybe?"

Now of course this isn't verbatim but it did happen many times throughout the night with many wearers of the system; people suddenly lost their fear of talking to others since they had such an intriguing subject to talk about and they could present *themselves*, biometrically, they could be affected, and it would be interesting.

Our two guys, being admired by a flock of beautiful Swedish girls who are enthralled by the biometric readings.

So now we had an interesting thing going on: people intrigued by their biometrics, and this is just heart rate and temperature. We even had a doctor in the house that night who brought up the topic of "what if you could see who was healthy or unhealthy, would there be social responsibility for people in the room if they could recognize it, would they be more or less attracted to the person who's biometrics that was?" it was a good question and got us thinking that maybe people should be judged by their insides rather than their outsides.

We wear clothes, put on makeup, take care of our skin, all in the aim of looking more healthy, more attractive, taking care of ourselves. But how many of us actually take care of ourselves, eat correctly, get exercise, take care of our mental states? Far less than put on makeup or cologne each morning. So what if we judged people (and yes, everyone unless they are some kind of saint judges others by their appearance, it's human nature!) ... if we judged them biometrically instead of by their clothes, hair or skin, but rather by their heart rate, temperature, skin response, or eeg readings?

Going back to the corset, what if we measured attraction or human relations that way?

These are the beginning of our questions and we hope to explore them much more deeply in the months to come.

Critical Corset

As a person's heart rate rises, the corset will tighten, automatically ensuring the practice of standing up taller by tightening the stomach and enhancing the chest, and indicating to the wearer, before they are cognitively aware, that they are attracted to someone.

Using a corset kindly donated by Femme-Fatale.dk this project has been developed to explore the the fascinating subject of attraction. How do we know when we are attracted to people? How does our body respond? What factors are present and how are they shaped by our surroundings?

How does the physiological effects of being attracted to someone translate into a tangible result, how can one be more aware of the moment of attraction? These questions were asked in the design of this concept – if a corset, which has been both celebrated and criticized throughout history, can indicate to the wearer that their heart rate has risen, what effect will that have on their social and physical behavior and the behavior of people around them?


Using a Polar Heart Rate monitor and receiver chip, the heart rate of the wearer was successfully interpreted using the Arduino board. If the wearer was relaxed and their heart rate rose above a certain level, they would feel the result as a tightening of the corset through the use of air being pumped into an inner lining in the corset. This would stay inflated, squeezing the user, until they became relaxed enough, and lowered their heart rate again, and would then deflate.

It is determined that the causation is disharmonious, it was difficult to tell if dancing, drinking caffeinated beverages, or simply ascending stairs could be outside causes of heart rate increasing. However, when stationary, and in close proximity to another, it was obvious to both individuals when the heart rate would rise or fall, as the pump could be heard starting.

Is conditioning possible with this wearable device? Would the wearer become so used to being squeezed when aroused that one could create a physical attraction, enabling the wearer to have a physical experience, the sensation of being squeezed gently, without the device at all? Would the wearer become more in tune with their body, would they learn to control heart rate, and eventually control their emotive and physiological states?

Many thanks to Femme-Fatale.dk for their generous support of this project!

Video Documentation