Show dates:

Bristol Festival of Nature (June 2010, Bristol, UK)

 

Contact:

Michaela Palmer at mic.palmer@uwe.ac.uk

Biofeedback lounger

biofeedback lounger

A biofeedback lounger that sonified visitors' stress levels, exhibited at the Bristol Festival of Nature in 2010
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Brainwaves/soundwaves

participant wearing sensors

Music technology students observe and listen to their own brainwave patterns
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Introduction

Excitations performance

On biofeedback technology and its use in art and affective computing
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Affective gaming

participant wearing sensors

Exploring the use of biofeedback in games, a recent collaboration with Mark Palmer
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Introduction


Biofeedback is the process of becoming aware of various physiological functions taking place within one's own body. This is achieved by using instruments (sensors) that provide audiovisual feedback on the activity of those functions.

Biofeedback measurements can include muscle tension (EMG), respiratory rate, movement of eye muscles (EOG), retinal changes (ERG), heart beat, pulse(s), blood supply to the limbs (ECG), oxygen levels in the blood, skin conductivity (GSR = galvanic skin response), or changes to brain wave patterns (EEG).

The changes that the biofeedback equipment communicates to its users are often related to changes in their thoughts, emotions, or behaviour, and so biofeedback can be a helpful training tool to improve one's health or performance.

biofeedback sensors

Typical biofeedback sensors and computer interfaces © Michaela Palmer

Listening to biofeedback data that has been translated into sound can make the nature of these physiological processes perceptible, especially when the sounds have been composed in such a way that they still carry some of the characteristics of the processes that take place in the body. Rhythms, for example, can easily communicate expansions and contractions that occur naturally in the body.

The projects on this page represent some of what followed on from Excitations, my long-term biofeedback performance research project.

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Biofeedback lounger


In 2010, I recomposed some of the Excitations sounds for use in a biofeedback lounger that was exhibited at the Bristol Festival of Nature. Festival visitors could relax in the chair whilst listening to a sonification of their stress levels.

biofeedback lounger

Biofeedback lounger at the Festival of Nature © Michaela Palmer

Maybe the sunny weather played its part, but sitting in the lounger was certainly popular. It sparked off many interesting conversations about biofeedback applications, their use in research and their potential health benefits. Some participants even asked whether they could buy the biofeedback application.

biofeedback lounger in action biofeedback lounger in action

biofeedback lounger in action biofeedback lounger in action

Biofeedback lounger at the Festival of Nature, all images © Michaela Palmer

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Affective gaming


A recent research project by Mark Palmer. The player has to hit the oncoming balls using the square bat displayed in the foreground. Bat and ball have to colour-match, otherwise no point is scored. The game starts off easy, but soon the number and speed of the balls increase…

I helped Mark to use biofeedback sensors to monitor how players feel whilst playing. Their galvanic skin response, heart rate and heart rate variability are measured in order to get a better understanding of their patterns of engagement.

Screenshot of affective pong game

Screenshot of affective pong game, © Mark Palmer, 2011

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Brainwaves/soundwaves


In 2010 I started to introduce some of my 2nd year music technology students at UWE to the sonification of brainwave data. I helped them to hack into a couple of Mindflex toys, a low-cost option when it comes to EEG.

Having completed the Frontiernerds tutorial, students see their brainwave data on screen.

Once the brainwave data was interpreted in the Processing programming environment, it became possible to pass on triggers to Max/msp (another programming environment), which could then either generate predefined sounds or play preloaded sound loops. In this way, different kinds of brainwaves could trigger different kinds of sounds, and patterns of engagement started to become audible.Thabre interface

In 2012 a group of students managed to crack the real-time sonification of the brainwave data. Steffan Chelland, Adrian Memed and Ewan Edwards developed Thabre, an EEG to sound software application. Users can follow their brainwave patterns on screen and decide how they want this to sound, by choosing from a range of customised sample banks.

The intention behind this was to test out a self-reinforcing feedback loop; in other words to see whether the qualities of the sounds listened to could influenced the participants and help to prolong, for example, the presence of their alpha-waves.


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