My Heart Skipped a Beat

During the foundation to physical computing week, the team was tasked with creating a drawing machine. My Heart Skipped a Beat! is the result of a week-long investigation into how a person’s changing emotions could be visually represented without a direct act of drawing.

Taking its inspiration from the electrocardiogram and seismograph as graphical forms that register intensity variations of a phenomenon, as well as artist Olafur Eliasson’s kinetic drawing machines, the team decided to explore the potential of using a pulse sensor measuring beats per minute (BPM) as input for a microcontroller. The heartbeat is an essential and one of the most evocative vital signs, one that can be altered by physical activity or sudden emotional changes. The team constructed a drawing machine that used 2 stepper motors to output variations in the BPM into the tilt of the x and y-axis of a drawing plane. The tilts activated the movement of a glass sphere dipped in Indian ink to create a drawing on a sheet of paper. Red LEDs displayed the BPM of the person wearing the pulse sensor. The resulting drawings are unique to the emotional state of the person using the machine.