Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Social Space Project: Phase 1

BioMeme: biometric empathic communication

the kit includes:

DAEX25 sound exciter:
(, $5

Arduino-compatible Ardweeny:
(, $10

FTDI cable: $17

Piezoelectric film / Vibration Sensor - Large:
(, $3

Software (free):
Based on "knock sensor" example, KnockSensor

Terrycloth wristband: $1

Adjustable ring base: $2 (or less)

solid-core wire: $2

female 3-pin header: $1


The BioMeme is a device meant to link users together through biometric data - in this case, by measuring and amplifying the heart rate.  This kit aids in the construction of a device that measures interior biological rhythms and projects them outward, communicating the usually concealed agitation or excitement of each user.  The BioMeme invites users to empathize and synchronize their own interior rhythms with others, ultimately propagating a shared biological rhythm that transgresses boundaries of culture, gender, and language.

While many attempt to conceal their struggles with agitation and anxiety, the BioMeme promotes biological awareness and proactive behavior regarding health.  For example, talking therapies promote a willingness to share fears and anxieties either to an individual or group to create lasting relationships based upon openness and trust.  In addition, monitoring of one’s own heart rate promotes healthy biological awareness.  A common technique in many meditation practices is the attempt to control one's own biometric data, slowing or increasing one's own heart rate.  The ability to do so can help reduced stress quickly, concentrate on difficult tasks, and recover from fatigue faster.  With the help of the BioMeme, a user can first learn to control his/her own heart rate, and use this data to connect with others.  A BioMeme user may place the sound exciter on a companion to allow them to share her biological status.  When used as a pair or in a group, users can attempt to synchronize biometric systems.  Ultimately, the BioMeme may be used to chain many users together, synchronizing heart rates and creating a community with a shared biological rhythm.

The device consists of a wrist-mounted microcontroller attached to a speaker element mounted on an adjustable ring blank.  A piezoelectric film attached into the inside of a wristband, thus flush against the wrist, detects the vibrations caused by the pulse.  These vibrations are sent to the wrist-mounted Ardweeny, an Arduino-compatible microcontroller.  The vibrations measured by the piezo are translated into sound and amplified as they are fed through the speaker wires attached to the sound exciter element cupped in the hand.  The sound exciter, when attached to a surface, speeds it up to 20,000 cycles per second, transforming it into a speaker.

The BioMeme can act as a boon to the lone traveller in an overwhelming urban territory.  When traveling alone in the concrete jungle, it is common to feel anxious or agitated, whether from a pervasive claustrophobia, agoraphobia, or perhaps the fatigue of overstimulation.  Just as insects such as the cricket engage in stridulation to alert others of their presence and biological state, the BioMeme allows the user to project his/her heart rate onto walls and project his/her biometric "mood" to those in close proximity.



  1. It would be interesting if you could get a few people together using this device to see if they could all sync their heart rates. How loud would this be? The audible element could get lost if you are in a downtown environment, or is this a very intimate gesture, i.e. placing the speaker over someones ear?

  2. I obviously really like things having to do with sound and really that this piece deals with the transposition of bio-rhythms into audio waveforms. Given that 20khz is the upper extent of human hearing, will the frequency that is transmitted be up to 20khz (depending on qualities of the surface touched)? Or will it always be 20khz?

  3. One thing that strikes me about this is that it becomes so personal it is almost reduced to a direct relationship with just one other person. If several people are to "sync-up", it could be difficult as one personal can only "hear" the output of one other person (if the method is direct contact). If several people make a chain, there is still only communication from one person to another, unless a shared substrate is used so that everyone can both share and feel the collective pulses.


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