Fascinated by the concept of biofeedback with a desire to take it further than had been done before, Eric Morrison and I chose to create a pair of shoes that shows the user’s heartbeat in a a very public manner. Using NeoPixel LED strips, Adafruit Flora Boards, and pulse sensors we were able to visualize the user’s current heartbeat on the sole of the shoes. The project was coded in the Arduino environment and funded by the New Media Micro Grant which we applied for using a proposal created in Adobe Illustrator.
We first consulted an expert in the field of psychology at the University of Maine Counseling Center, who informed us about the anxiety that people may feel when wearing the shoes because the heartbeat is usually so personal. He also mentioned several other applications for adaptations of our project, including a quick visual reference for staff in nursing homes to keep a somewhat noninvasive eye on residents’ heart rates.
When showcased at the annual New Media Night, held at the University of Maine, it was amazing to see people’s reactions to the shoes. Most were intrigued enough by the “flashy footwear” to strike up a conversation with us about what was actually controlling the animation. After explaining the biofeedback aspect, many people took a long pause and proceeded to have a conversation with us about the implications of such a project. Overall it was a great experience to be able to see visitors’ initial fascination turn into deep thought about what this could mean for the future.
Programs/Tools Used: Adobe Illustrator, Arduino Coding Environment, Flora Boards, Pulse Sensors, Photo Resistor, LED NeoPixel Strips