During my Digital Media Arts (MA) course, my focus laid on the intersections of Biology-Technology-Arts and I have spent a good amount of time researching the grounds of bio-feedback, bio-art and the general “bio-byte” connections. This fascination of mine advanced gradually, and I had spent the last six months of the course developing my final project which explored such relationships. It had been a challenging journey and during the process, many technical obstacles have manifested themselves repeatedly. The nature of my final installation required extensive knowledge of electronics and coding; not just basic know-how but indeed an advanced understanding of the technology behind the scenes. I finally convinced myself, three years later, to present this forgotten project of mine.
Beat was exhibited at the University of Brighton, Grand Parade on 29Jun–8Jul 2012
So here it goes..
Beat is an interactive installation where the participant’s heart rate is controlling the speed that a vinyl record plays on a turntable. The faster the heart rate, the faster the RPM of the record. The concept is simple; giving constant, real-time and reliable biofeedback with the use of sound and moving image to the participant. The whole experience is meant to be fun and amusing and something that anybody can try. To fully experience Beat, someone can jog on the spot, dance to the music or be creative finding a different way to increase their own heart-rate in order for them to be granted alterations on sound and concurrent visual animations. The title Beat has been given to the project because it illustrates the association of a heartbeat and the kick/beat of the electronic music that I am using as part of the installation. I have emphasised this connection by mapping the record to be played in a similar rate with the current at the time heartbeat of the participant; in simpler words, the song beat and the heartbeat are almost synchronised (they cannot be fully synchronised for the reason that a heart-rate is not stable).
A normal semi-pro turntable is used for the project. However, several adjustments to it had to be made. An Arduino Uno micro-controller is embedded within the main case, which is responsible of receiving wireless heart rate signals from the participants while controlling the speed of the vinyl and simultaneously sending data to a small externally attached computer via a USB cable connection.
Participants are asked to wear a Polar strap on their chest which has direct connection with their skin. The strap is then sending wireless real time signals of their heart rate to the turntable.
The participant is then asked to stand in front of the turntable for a few seconds in order to establish connection with the turntable. Once connection is established, the participant is able to start interacting by dancing, running on the spot or coming up with any other creative way they can think of in order to increase their heart rate. The wireless technology was chosen to give people the opportunity to move freely and interact with the turntable as they please.
The data is concurrently been translated into a visual projection while controlling the speed of the physical and virtual projected vinyl in real time. The higher the heart rate, the faster the vinyl will spin and vice versa. A sound wave and BPM (beats per minute) reading were animated on the projection.
The hue of the visuals is changing according to the BPM of participant:
Special thanks to: Sue Gollifer, Benedict Sheehan, Michael O’Connell and the University of Brighton | Music track used by James Molden | © Stavros Siamptanis 2012–2015