As my residency comes to an end if feels like just the beginning of so many things for me as an artist, shaman, and personally. At the midpoint of the residency I had moments that asked for me to pause myself in every aspect.
Some were truly wonderful like: moving into new personal and professional spaces (home and studio) and many unexpected amazing exhibitions/performances showcasing the works I created throughout 2019.
Other moments asked for deeper reflection and to stop and honor the journey of family members that passed away at the end of the year. Culturally honoring the end of someones life is both a celebration and ritual act of letting go of what was known of them in the physical form. This practice involves traditional ceremonies like repass, viewings, funerals, and gatherings in remembrance with those who loved and were impacted by that life. Additionally, often other rituals honoring the loved one who is no longer with us in body also can take place over many days and even weeks. This time is a gift to process feelings and spend with those you love.
I took this time for myself towards the end of 2019. I paused my creative making. I adjusted my schedule. I canceled commitments in order to be present, mindful, and thoughtful during my moment to feel their passing.
This time to pause happened during my residency. I appreciated the SciArt family and my partner Sean M. Montgomery Ph.D. for their support and understanding. As human beings, we often equate our value to how much we produce; our productivity. Our bodies are magnificent machines, yet our value is much greater than labor. We should all celebrate ourselves out loud, on purpose, with intention unapologetically. We should also hold as much space for what we need, when we need it, and listen to how we feel always.
It is a new year and a new decade. 2020 has me thinking about all the things I am looking forward to and everything wonderful on the way. Also, appreciating all the amazing things that I have (including experiences, people, things, and most importantly myself).
My partner and I talked about so many magical ways for our collaboration to unfold. We shared what we are most passionate about both as professionals and personally. This experience is a gift that I will truly treasure! I am excited for the potential for us to continue the journey and hopefully bring to life new things based in cross-disciplinary collaboration. I am also so excited to see how EmotiBit impacts the world!
I am so happy that I have been a part of this program. I can’t wait to see what happens next. Thank you so very much!
Making things can be hard. Sometimes making things is extra hard. The past couple weeks has been one of those times.
We got our EmotiBit Beta boards back from our manufacturer and everything was wrong. Although it’s a board manufacturer I’d worked with at a previous startup, on this occasion, of the 84 boards we ordered, only 25 arrived by the fourth day after the scheduled arrival. We tested all 25 of the boards and none of them worked. None. Digging a little deeper, we found 6 different failure modes.
Having just dropped a big chunk of change on this manufacturing order, we would have been pooping our pants at that point, but we’d done our due diligence. In addition to employing a careful review process for every part, schematic, layout, and manufacturing file aspect of the board, we’d also done a bare-board prototype run that we hand assembled and those boards worked 100% perfectly. So we had a high-degree of confidence that we could figure out what was going on.
The first thing we noticed was that the snaps completely popped out of the board as soon as we tried to plug in the EDA electrodes. Digging a little deeper, we recognized that was because the manufacturer had clearly removed the solder paste around the snaps from our design files. It’s a bummer because it’s not super fun hand soldering those big metal snaps that sink a lot of heat, but it was definitely a fixable problem, so we continued looking for what was causing the other failures on the boards.
As we continued looking over the boards we found that one board was fully missing at least one part. Continuing on our failure root-cause journey we realized that many of the failures seemed to be occurring at or near the magnetometer, so we focussed our microscope on that part to see what could be going on. To our chagrin, on many boards the solder job on the BMM150 was bad. Really bad. The part was often shifted off the pads and often exhibited what obviously appeared to be cold solder joints.
Although it was clear that these solder joints could potentially cause some of the problems we were seeing, to prove that it wasn’t a design issue, we had to show to ourselves (and our manufacturer) that we could fix the board by fixing the soldering. So we picked a board where only the magnetometer was exhibiting failure and set about resoldering the part. That’s not a totally trivial matter because the part has 12 solder pads in a 1.5mm x 1.5mm space and 4 of the pads are fully under the chip in a so-called ball grid array (BGA) form factor. It tooks some time huddled over a microscope removing the chip, cleaning up the 0.2mm diameter pads, delicately painting solder paste onto to each, and using a hot-air rework gun to flow each solder ball to its mated pad without any cross-talk to the nearby pads spaced only 0.2mm away. It took some work to get it just right, but my days as a neuroscientist doing micro brain surgery definitely pulled through, and after reworking the BMM150 we managed to get one board in the batch that was 100% working.
We breathed a sigh of relief knowing for certain that our design was good, but unfortunately that was just the beginning of our manufacturing saga. It was super frustrating that we’d paid a premium (~double) for quick-turn manufacturing to hit our deadlines, but sometimes these kind of mistakes happen, so we reached out to our manufacturer detailing the problems we’d found to ship the 25 boards back and get them (as well as the remaining >⅔ of our order) fixed. Our biggest concern was that we get boards that are 100% working shipped to our Beta customers. Because it’s always an act of faith to send product into the world, we asked our manufacturer for a number of data points to assure that the boards we got back were working and would continue to work in the hands of our Beta partners.
Pages and pages of emails and phone calls later, the reworked boards were scheduled to arrive later that week, but Friday came and went with no boards. Finally, on Monday 36 of our 84 ordered boards arrived on our doorstep. We eagerly opened the box like kids on Christmas unwrapped the bubble bag and “POP” one of the EDA snaps immediately fell out. If the board was working, it might well have measured my disappointment. We then set about the dogged business of testing boards. Board 1… fail. Board 2… fail… 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11… after 15 failed boards in a row, we decided we’d seen enough. On one board the magnetometer initially wasn’t working, but when we breathed on it to test the temperature and humidity sensors, the magnetometer started working! Eee gad!
This wasn’t going to work. There’s no way we could ever ship these boards to customers with confidence. Although we were now 11 days past the original scheduled board arrival and also past the date we promised we would ship to customers, we had no choice. We had to lot-reject the boards and start over with a new manufacturer. Although it’s definitely not how we wanted to spend our time over the last few weeks and it interposes a few weeks delay to get EmotiBits into our Beta partners hands, we’re absolutely committed to creating a truly outstanding bio-wearable sensor that enables our partners realize their wildest imagination. Even with this manufacturing setback, our EmotiBit Alpha boards are still measuring a high level of excitement and confidence!
I spent some time this week reading articles and thinking about different body locations and how signals from the body may change depending on where you measure them. We specifically designed EmotiBit so that it could be worn just about anywhere on the body and folks could choose the location that works best for them.
The palms of the hands are a great place to measure a number of different signals. Eccrine sweat glands have high density on the hands, leading to skin conductance changes (EDA) that’s very responsive to the sympathetic nervous system. There’s also dense vascularization of the hands, so PPG can readily measure your pulse, respiration, and other biometrics (the finger clip you get at the hospital measures PPG). Local body temperature likely fluctuates a fair amount depending on activity and changes in the environmental temperature and movements can capture an interesting array of activity and gestures. The only problem is that people often like to do things with their hands, like pick things up or type on a keyboard like I am now.
Most consumer activity trackers are worn on the wrist, but that probably has more to do with where people are comfortable wearing devices than it has to do with getting good biometric data. EDA can pick up emotional reactions on the wrist, but as can be seen in the van Dooren figure, the responsiveness can vary a lot depending on the exact location and orientation of the sensors. The wrist isn’t a great place to measure heart rate because the wrist is mostly connective tissue and bones, whereas PPG is best measured from highly vascularized “meaty” parts of the body. To get good PPG readings from the wrist it’s important to crank down the tightness of the band to minimize movement artifacts. Once you do that, movement fluctuations on the wrist can be an interesting reflection of motions ranging from walking and running to gestures.
As you move up the arm the nature of the data changes somewhat, with EDA becoming less responsive (although notably with EmotiBit it’s possible to run wired finger clips up to the device) but PPG becoming generally a little better than the wrist as you land on highly vascularized musculature. Having a super consistent PPG signal is suuper important to calculate heart rate variability (HRV, a measure of sympathetic/parasympathetic activation) because it takes about 5-10 minutes of reliable heart rate data to calculate a single data point for HRV.
The forehead can be an interesting location for EmotiBit to measure biometrics, with strong EDA and PPG signals. Temperature data on the forehead is also interesting since it’s reflective of core temperature (that’s where your school nurse will likely take your temperature these days) and shows fluctuations with emotional changes. Head movements can reflect both changes in gaze as well as nods and other social interactions.
Moving to the neck or trunk can be a little tricky to get good signal, but with enough fine tuning it may be possible. The shoulders, for example have almost twice the EDA responses than do signals from the back, neck or abdomen according van Dooren et al.
At the end of the day, where you want to measure physiological signals can depend on a host of factors including where you can get good signal, but also what’s going to keep the sensor out of the way and let you do your thing. Our EmotiBit Alpha partners at UQAQ, for example, are studying risk taking behavior in snowboarders on a half pipe. After considering a number of locations and collecting pilot data they decided that strapping the sensor to the calf would be the safest option that still picked up a dynamic range of signals.
Together with Nicoletta, we’ve been identifying body locations that will capture the most meaningful constellation of data that also allows her a full range of motion and lets her fully connect with her audience.
While running at a full sprint to deliver EmotiBits to Nicoletta and our other Beta partners, I also thought more this week about how internal context can help us understand and create experiences. Giving a talk at the interactive design group Gallagher & Associates who create interactive experiences for museums and companies around the world, allowed me to take a slightly different view of how EmotiBit could be used in my collaboration with Nicoletta.
An important piece of that puzzle is recognizing that perception is as much a reflection of the perceiver as it is a reflection of the outside world. Changes in our ongoing mental and emotional status can entirely change our ability to sense, integrate, and react to changes in the world around us.
Signals are constantly traveling throughout the body. Electrical, chemical, and mechanical signals are fundamental in making up who we are and how we’re feeling at any moment in time. By picking up these signals from the body we can perhaps gain a new window into ourselves and into one another.
Thinking together with Nicoletta about what kind of experience we want to create or how we want to understand the experiences that are created as she dances continues to be an exciting prospect.
The last 2 weeks have been laser focused on finalizing EmotiBit Beta boards to send out for manufacturing. With Beta partners ranging from artists like Nicoletta to professors at MIT and folks working in the EdTech space, we could not be more excited to get EmotiBit into more people’s hands and see what folks do with the physiological and emotional signals from their body!
For EmotiBit Beta we’ve carefully designed and engineered a number of new features and improvements starting with making the boards pin compatible with the entire Adafruit Feather line of boards to allow WiFi, Bluetooth, LoRa, 4G or any number of other channels to wirelessly communicate your emotions to a friend! We also added LEDs to give the wearer ready indication for the recording, connectivity and battery status when using EmotiBit.
In addition to improved interfacing, we also dialed in a number of our sensor circuits to get truly research-grade signal quality. We added the Melexis MLX90632 medical-grade temperature sensing thermopile to measure the tiny fluctuations in body temperature that accompany emotional reactions. Although it’s the single most expensive part on the entire board (nearly $15 each), we decided it was worth the extra expense to see what Nicoletta and our other Beta partners could do with the absolute best quality signal we could deliver.
We also worked super hard to create the most sensitive EDA circuit that we know of. Targeting the ability to resolve skin resistance changes as small as 1kOhm over the extremely wide range of naturally occurring skin resistance (10kOhm to 30MOhm) required weeks of modeling and testing our EDA circuitry to get it just right. The culmination of that work is the small (less than 1cm) strip of board we affectionately call EDA village, with cute little opamp houses surrounded by capacitor and resistor parked cars, we are super stoked about the resulting signal quality!
With a board that’s only slightly bigger than your thumb and hosting nearly 80 components, we also devoted substantial engineering effort to follow best practice mixed analog and digital signal design guidelines. Separating analog and digital power planes and adding an inductor and over a dozen capacitors (including one that’s a whopping 1.2 x 0.6 millimeters in size), we expect noise on our Beta production boards to be in the sub-microvolt range.
Last but not least, we learned from a year of working with our Alpha partners that SD cards are wild beasts that must be tamed! In addition to write delays and large surges of current that need to be carefully handled by the analog/digital power conditioning, they also can draw nearly 2.5 milliamps of quiescent current. That may not sound like a lot, but when you have a wearable form factor with only 400mAh of battery, 2.5 mA would kill your battery in about 6 days. To make sure EmotiBit’s battery isn’t dead every time Nicoletta goes to use it, we added an updated hibernate circuit that entirely shuts off the EmotiBit power draw and extends the hibernation battery life up to 4 months.
All in all, we couldn’t be more excited to bring EmotiBit Beta into the world and into the hands (or anywhere else on the body) of Nicoletta and our other Beta partners!
Boards go out for manufacturing this week!
Happy Thanksgiving everybody!
This week I am physically resting my body and mind after 10 consecutive days of performing. This week I am moving into a new apartment and studio. I love both of these places so much and feel peaceful and calm in my new creative and personal home spaces. I am excited about so many new things that are happening in my life and look forward to everything that is on the way.
As I shift forward, I release everything that no longer serves me. I embrace who I am, as I am, with tenderness, kindness, and love. My final performance of 2019 was very vulnerable. During the piece, I cried without thought of anything external. My tears were peaceful and soothing. I feel whole. I feel free. I received messages from those who witness my work. They shared appreciation for what I shared with them. As an artist presenting live work it is wonderful when others take a moment to share how they feel, what resonated, how they were moved.
During this next chapter my focus is clear, I will: obsess about everything that I love about myself, do absolutely everything that makes me happy, and LOVE. I will be taking some time to simply dream before creating new works and developing new performative pieces. Restoration and reflection is important to my process. I give so much of myself when I perform, therefore I make space to give myself back to me too.
This week I continued thinking about how we can incorporate emotional and physiological data into Nicoletta’s dance performance. Do we want to understand how Nicoletta’s sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system changes during a performance? Or do we want to focus on how Nicolletta’s performance changes the physiology of the audience? Or is the magic of dance best viewed through the lens of synchronicity between Nicoletta and her audience? This week I started by thinking about understanding the relationship between the dance and the dancer’s own body.
I’m super curious to measure how Nicoletta’s physiology changes while dancing. When she’s immersed in her performance, do fluctuations in heart rate and electrodermal activity (EDA) rise and fall in anticipation of evocative moments? With EmotiBit’s 9-axis IMU to measure movements along with the EDA sensor, PPG sensor, local body temperature and humidity sensor, can we create a moving portrait of both physical and physio-emotional state. Streaming data live over WiFi might give us an immediate connection between Nicoletta’s dance and physiological changes and be a great way to begin listening to the data and learning what it can tell us. Cuing into which data streams are especially responsive in this kind of pilot experimentation might help focus our energy on how to optimize our data collection and possibly performance characteristics.
Live visualization of physiological data during an improvisational dance piece, Left Footprints, created in collaboration with LoVid as part of the New York Electronic Arts Festival
Through experimentation with live streaming physiological data we may also reveal ways to turn physiological data into an instrument that Nicoletta can learn to play as part of her performance. Perhaps changing the brightness or color of Nicoletta’s LED clothing - or adding an architectural element of the space like a glowing orb - could become a new channel by which to communicate inner feelings and experience to the audience.
In addition to streaming data over WiFi to pilot our data science and create new channels of communication, we can also create data artifacts from Nicoletta’s performance by storing all the data on EmotiBit’s built-in SD card. Because we’ll have a detailed profile of Nicoletta’s movement captured with the 9-axis IMU, we can relate physiological changes back to these changes in movement and understand how movement - or the anticipation/planning of movement -- is reflected in the emotion and physiology of dance. Because EmotiBit can synchronize the data timestamps with a computer or phone, we can also simultaneously record video of the performance and create another touch-point to relate the physical movements captured by the IMU and the physiological changes from the other sensors to the performance. These combined data artifacts may present an opportunity to document the performance both from the perspective of an external observer and also the internal context of the performer. This documentation will bring the work to larger audiences online as well as create a dataset for scientific inquiry.
As we continue exploring the SciArt Bridge Residency together, I’m excited to create new synergies at the intersection of biology, psychology and dance.
I am pacing, and being very kind to myself during 10 days of performing at Brilliant Baltimore Light City & Book Festival and the MAP Benifit. I am napping and nourishing throughout the day. I leave feeling emotionally, mentally, and spiritually rested. After performances I listen, and tend to the needs of my body.
During these performances I evoke Lemanja (Yemoja) and Yemaya while calling myself back to the sea. Water is both calming and restorative for me. I honor both myself and the ancestors when I do what I love. My performance practice is deeply meditative, I find myself more tuned to inner-self and unplugged from the external. I find my own peace and balance while in public spaces through a fusion of spirituality and art.
I have embedded LED light elements into my garment for nighttime activations. During my performances I use a quartz crystal singing bowl to strike rhythmically. I respond to the vibrations through ritual and movement during the ceremony.
A singing bowl is an inverted bell, supported from below with the rim uppermost. These bells are bowl-shaped and are created in a wide range of sizes. Traditional Tibetan singing bowls are typically made of metal like copper, silver, gold. This instrument produces sounds that are used in meditation and vibrations connected to the chakras.
Since I am interdisciplinary, I am excited about incorporating elements that overlap with modalities that support wellbeing, such as light therapy and sound bathing. Producing sound creates a more immersive experience for both me as the artist and the patrons who interact with the work. I am looking forward to continuing to explore this aspect of my art and investigate new ways to incorporate singing bowls both into my creative practices and my day-to-day life.
This week I gave a bit more thought to the ways in which to bring EmotiBit into a dance performance with Nicoletta. At a high level, there’s a continuum of possibilities ranging from using physiological sensors as instrument that can directly impact the audience in a visceral manner, to providing more of a conceptual context for the work in a live communication with the audience or as a data artifact that can live on after the exhibition in different forms. Thinking through previous works that have integrated sensing signals from the body has begun to help me to lay out this continuum into a framework for exploring new ideas in the SciArt Bridge residency.
Using physiological sensors as an instrument has the potential to create new channels of communication between performer and audience. In a work called Left Footprints, created as part of a residency at the New York Hall of Science and 2019 New York Electronic Arts Festival, my collaborators explored how physiological data from EmotiBit could deliver new experiences by altering the delivery of media content. An earlier collaboration with LoVid called Hive Mind took that concept to an extreme by utilizing signals read from the brain to directly impact the neuronal patterns of the audience through pulses of light and sound.
Taking a slight step back from using physiological data to directly drive brainwaves or media content delivery, it’s also possible to have these signals provide a broader context for a performance or installation. Measuring the Magic of Mutual Gaze (by Marina Abramovic, Suzanne Dikker and Matthias Oostrik) explored this possibility by transforming Abramovic’s MoMA exhibition “The Artist is Present” into work exploring the neuroscientific basis of the powerful connection that Abramovic creates with her audience.
Going beyond the live performance, physiological data can become artifacts that carry the mantle of the work into new forms. Emergence is an installation that I showed at ISEA and the Istanbul Biennale in which I asked the audience to consider where the body ends and the internet begins. Capturing electrical signals from the viewer’s heart, the work propagated those signals into the surrounding space and ultimately onto the internet. Capturing a picture with each heartbeat of the viewer and uploading it to Flickr, the work has captured over 30,000 heartbeats from viewers around the world that now create an interesting artifact to reflect on our digital experience of time.
Bringing this continuum of possibilities into my conversation with Nicoletta is an exciting opportunity to explore how we can celebrate her work as a dancer and chamana through the unique lens of the SciArt Bridge Residency. So many ideas and much more to unfold in the weeks and months to come.
This week I have been napping, resting, and napping some more. I am in a period of big shifts. There are so many wonderful things happening in my life and I am very excited. My practice both as an artist and chamána is built upon communication with my body. I am very kind to my temple; the instrument I create with, and I listen to it carefully.
Part of my relaxing is about restoration through meditation. The chakras, centers of spiritual power in the human body, are a major focus for me. Guided meditation, dance meditation, laugh meditation, walking meditation are ways that I achieve quieting of thoughts and practice mindfulness.
In addition to meditation I also use color as a way to care for myself. Color theory and color meaning are also important components of my practice. In fact, I mostly dress in monochromatic looks. A single color head-to-toe. These choices are made daily and informed by my feelings, based in both psychology and spirituality with the intention to fortify specific aspects of me that I aim to reinforce.
Before getting dressed, I ask myself questions like:
What is my intention?
How am I feeling?
In what ways do I feel most powerful?
What aspects do I want to affirm and/or focus on?
The thoughts that follow point me in the direction of a specific chakra and corresponding color. I ask myself similar questions when working in my art studio. In addition to considering WHY I am creating and WHAT a specific piece will be, WHERE it will be placed/performed, HOW others interact with the work and WHO they are. Also, WHEN such as: time of day, season, duration. Once again the color story, and its meaning, is often one of the first pieces of the creative puzzle placed.
It’s fascinating to me how science, spirituality, and art all have methods for decoding colors. I am interested in how they overlap and guide one another. I also think about what a color feels like. Why certain colors make me feel energized, calm, balanced, peaceful, soothed, secure.
I often revisit studies I have worked on and contemplate my choice to use specific hues or tones. When I was healing from injuries I transformed my X-rays into love letters back to my body. These studies were then incorporated into projection video self portraits for installation during my performances. All of the colors used were selected with intention and have deep personal meaning.
Womb Rebirth, 2017
A multi-sensory celebration of rebirth as activated action. The gallery space is transformed into the metaphorical womb. My self-portrait, a video projection created from my x-rays sets the intention for restorative healing. The performance incorporates healing of past injuries, as I let go of visceral memories while gifting others small tokens and gestures of love to cherish and reflect upon. I created: sacred sculptural objects to engage with including: a womb shield, a headdress, sound elements, light elements, large-scale installation housing for performance art and the public.
This week my lab continued hard at work developing and refining the EmotiBit circuitry. One sensor that I hope will really get Nicolleta’s heart pounding is our multi-wavelength photoplethysmography or PPG sensor.
You might be familiar with PPG sensors on some wrist-worn activity trackers, or from the little clip they put on your finger at the hospital. Most activity trackers typically use only a single wavelength of green light, while hospital PPG sensors use a combination of red and infrared light and EmotiBit uses all 3 wavelengths to derive a complex portrait of physiological changes. To understand why different colors of light make a difference, it might be helpful to explain how PPG technology works.
PPG is essentially just shining a light into your skin and measuring how much light gets reflected versus how much gets absorbed by your body. Because oxygenated blood reflects different color wavelengths (looks red) than deoxygenated blood (looks more blue), it’s possible to measure a variety of changes in the cardiovascular system. Every time your heart beats, a fresh supply of oxygenated blood flows through your body, flushing your tissue red and generating an increased red PPG signal. This can give you information about both your overall activity level, energy usage and emotional changes. Because EmotiBit offers access to the raw PPG data, other physiological metrics like the dicrotic notch (related to heart valve closing ) can be measured from the raw signals and by measuring heart rate changes over time it’s possible to derive pulse rate variability (PRV) to assess how active the sympathetic “fight or flight” and parasympathetic “rest and digest” nervous systems are. With the carefully engineered time synchronization, it’s additionally possible to take measurements from multiple EmotiBits in different body locations and derive information like pulse transit time (PTT, correlated to blood pressure) and changes in PPG waveshape caused by vascular embolism.
Unlike most activity trackers, which use only green light, comparing the ratio of red and infrared light in a multi-wavelength PPG allows the ratio of blood oxygen saturation to be precisely calculated. Monitoring how this ratio rises and falls over time, it’s possible to measure breathing and study stress-related apnea. Furthermore, because red and infrared light penetrate deeper into the body’s tissue than does green light, even more detailed information about the body, such as hydration levels (as being performed by some labs) might be the tip of the “what’s measurable” iceberg. PPG is essentially spectrometry, which is a gold-standard technique used by physicists, chemists, biologists, and astronomers alike to understand the underlying chemical composition of an unknown substance. My dream is that through this SciArt residency and by giving more people access to high quality multi-wavelength PPG data from EmotiBit, we may discover new ways to understand our bodies and minds.
After a week of attending art events and traveling I am excited about a lot of rest to restore and reset myself. I am preparing for my upcoming performances titled Bathed in Light (Bañada en Luz).
“Bathed in Light, a ritual performed by Nicoletta, honors the Mothers of Living Waters, Lemanja (Yemoja) and Yemaya. Clothed in enigmatic shades of the deep ocean floor, Nicoletta’s body is transformed into an alter; her movements serve as offerings to the goddesses. She bathes; cleanses space and sculpts the air with light. Her Crown adorned with stardust is a conduit to the nurturing moonlight which she calls upon during her performance.”
In the studio this week I am working on the video projection component for my performances. I have been spending a lot of time daydreaming, actually night gazing and simply looking up at the sky.
I am fascinated by the moon and how it affects water on this planet. I started to think about the body. I started to think about how much of me is water. I started to contemplate how phases of the moon affect me. Since the moon’s gravitational pull affects bodies of water I began to ask myself questions like:
Does the moon also affect me?
Does the moon impact my mood and affect how I feel?
Does it affect the fluid in my brain and body in a way that I have yet to appreciate?
I look forward to continuing to investigate this concept in my studio. Water is an important element in my performances. Ritual bathing is a key component in my practice. I look forward to continuing to discover more during my residency and beyond.
This week my lab continued refining the EmotiBit circuitry for use in the SciArt residency. Working with Nicoletta in a dance performance, one aspect of the EmotiBit circuitry that is super important for this residency is the ability to measure complex movement.
The circuitry that measures movement is called an inertial measurement unit or IMU. Back in the days of the Apollo space missions, IMUs were larger than your head, but today IMU circuitry is so small that you need tweezers to pick them up. So how does an IMU measure movement? There are actually 3 different sensors that can measure movement inside an IMU circuit -- an accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer -- and since we live in a 3-dimensional world each of these sensors usually make measurements from 3 different axes, for a total of up to 9 different signals to create a portrait of movement.
The most common sensor in an IMU is an accelerometer. You find accelerometers in many devices ranging from phones to wrist-worn wearables and the reason they’re called accelerometers is because they measure linear acceleration. If you hold an accelerometer perfectly still you’ll see the force (or more accurately acceleration) of gravity in one direction and the other 2 directions will measure zero. However, if you make a sudden movement the accelerometer will register that movement as a spike in whichever direction you move. Accelerometers are commonly used in activity trackers because they’re good at measuring the up/down movements associated with running and forward/backward movement of swinging your arms.
While accelerometers are great at measuring steps or other up/down or side/side movements, a gyroscope is critical if you want to measure rotational movements like the complex gestures of a dance performance or the tricks of a snowboarder on a halfpipe. Although many common devices don’t include a gyroscope because of the increased cost and power consumption, having a gyroscope can be critical to determine whether a dancer is standing still or doing a pirouette, so we made sure to include a gyroscope on EmotiBit.
A magnetometer can be used to measure cardinal direction. Because the earth has a magnetic field, you can use a compass or a magnetometer to find North. This information can be useful to understand how a person is oriented in space and help to calibrate the start position and correct accumulated errors of gyroscope data to give a more complete picture of movement.
Using a combination of an accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer built into the EmotiBit, I’m looking forward to exploring how we can capture a portrait of movement during Nicoletta’s dance performance and understand how that relates to the physiological changes Nicoletta or her audience experiences as she sculpts her surrounding space.
This week I am preparing for upcoming performances, travel, and packing for a move into a new studio. I am also moving to a new apartment next month. This is a period of great transition for me. I am very excited and being very kind to myself during this moment of lots of shifts. I am giving a lot of attention to my emotions. I am very aware of self talk and how my thoughts relate to my feelings and impact my behaviors.
As an artist, my practice is built on my movements. My body is my greatest instrument and I tend to it daily to make sure that I maintain my wholeness. I use CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) techniques, mindfulness tools, spiritual aids, and sculptural art objects from my studio practice regularly as part of my practice as a Chamána (Shaman).
I pause often to check in with myself. I journal and document how I feel. I pay attention to how dance movements elevates or celebrates my mood. I find it fascinating to look back at how my happiness can be measured through these techniques. I look forward to having new data collection tools to integrate into this process. I can only imagine how much this data will provide me with greater insight into how art affects my state of being.
My work with the community as an educator, facilitator, producer, performer, and artist will have new modes of measuring qualitative and quantitative data. I am passionate about all aspects of wellbeing, therefore having more tools will be amazing. I am so excited about others having real time data to help guide them as they choose what to focus on as they navigate.
I have noticed over the years how much my life has changed, how fulfilled I feel, how much my energy and eagerness for life has increased since adjusting my behaviors based upon my feelings through mindfully thinking about what I am doing as an artist. Art is my language. Art is how I love to communicate. Science helps me decode, track, explore, and expand my creative practice.
This week was a technical deep-dive working on EmotiBit for the SciArt Bridge Residency and the launch of our EmotiBit Beta Partnerships. My labs’ goal in creating EmotiBit is to democratize emotion sensing or “affective computing” (term coined by Rosalind Picard at MIT) so that more people can have access to research-grade physiological sensing in a wearable form-factor. I think giving greater access to this data will create multipliers for people to ask new types of questions from different scientific, artistic, educational and DIY perspectives. To meet that goal, my lab has been hard at work to measure and stream 16 high-quality signals from the body.
This week we’ve been optimizing our electro-dermal activity (EDA) circuitry to accurately measure small fluctuations in skin resistance on top of the wide range of skin resistance that naturally occurs. On a hot day during physical activity skin resistance can be as low as 10 kiloohms or less, while on a chilly day when most sweat glands effectively go on vacation, skin resistance can easily skyrocket to 20 megaohms or more. Across this huge range, our goal is to detect small 10 kiloohm electro-dermal responses (EDRs) that accompany emotional reactions. Getting our circuitry carefully tuned to capture that full range has had us working hard with spice modeling software combined with good old fashioned soldering and bench experimentation.
We’ve also been working on next-generation temperature sensing for the EmotiBit. In addition to health-related changes in body temperature when you get sick or during ovulation, research has shown that micro-fluctuations in local body temperature can reflect emotional reactions. For EmotiBit Beta we’re adding medical-grade infrared thermopile sensing to get the most accurate local body temperature possible.
In addition to working on our specific sensors, we’ve also been working more broadly on the EmotiBit circuitry. By adding power conditioning to the 3.3 Volt supply delivered by Adafruit Feather, we’re aiming to reduce powerline noise and optimize the signal-to-noise-ratio for all our sensors. We’ve also been carefully selecting which connector pins on the Feather to use. Bringing EmotiBit into the amazing Adafruit Feather ecosystem is a huge multiplier to let people do anything they want with signals from the body, including using any number of wireless streaming protocols (WiFi, Bluetooth, LoRa, 4G, etc), and also the ability to attach any number of Feather Wings ranging from LED strip controllers to audio generators and motor drivers. Of course, streaming 16+ signals from the body and maintaining compatibility across a multitude of small form-factor boards with limited available pins requires careful planning to be sure we maximize the possibilities for everyone to explore their visions for affective computing.
As we remain heads-down, likely for another week or so, getting ready to send Beta boards out for manufacturing, we’re super excited thinking about how our hard work carefully developing the EmotiBit circuitry might lead to new avenues of exploration and possibly new ways of thinking about sensing signals from the body in this SciArt residency and beyond.