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Sunday, July 19, 2009

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.

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