Midterm Project Proposal

For my “stupid pet trick,” I would like to build further into my last mini-project, my not-quite meditation device. I am really intrigued by the idea of user-supplied inputs that the user may or may not understand, but over which he or she has some degree of actual and ultimate control.

As we discussed in class, breathing is maybe the best example of this, since it can be either conscious or unconscious. The most data-rich and least intrusive way I can think to measure this is by means of a magnetometer and a strong magnet, worn on the body in such a way that breathing moves them in relation to each other.

Other possible factors to measure might be the user’s position in relation to the device, perhaps some intentional act (the squeeze ball, for example) or…

In playing around with sensors this week, trying to figure out what reads what (and how), and what if any “off-label” uses each might have, I noticed some interesting interference when I held my piezo element in hand – a very rapid cycle of noise that went away when I put it down. I thought for a moment it might be my heartbeat, accidentally being captured, but it was way too fast. I then thought, perhaps it’s not the piezo that’s reading this but the wires themselves – I remembered my best friend’s TV when we were teenagers, which exploded in snow if you stood in a certain place, but calmed down when you put your hand on it. I unplugged the piezo, held the alligator clips in my hand, and the noise was still there – I placed them on the table, same distance apart, and nothing. So I’m assuming that’s my electrical field it’s reading, which would definitely be worth playing with further, though I’m not sure how individuated it is, and very unsure if it can be controlled.

But the idea would then be to take two or three of these factors (breath, field, position, for instance) and feed them into a program that creates an animation based on these, developing over time. The goal would be to somehow express something about the data themselves – not chaos but some (even very abstract) statement. Things like more agitated inputs warming the color palette or multiplying points of movement spring to mind, but I think most of the pleasure will be in experimenting to see what feels right.

And then a second, and much more interesting, goal would be to create it for two people – a nonverbal interaction that takes contributions from each to create a shared or partially-shared experience. But that is probably beyond the scope of the pet trick.

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