EKG-controlled Game of Life Hoodie

I have finally completed my latest : the ” EKG-controlled Game of Life Hoodie “. That’s a wordy title if there ever was one.

First Wear!

The concept here is a wearable version of Conway’s Game of Life, that is controlled by the current state of your life.  Essentially, a wearable extension of your heart, externalized in the form of Conway’s Life. A custom circuit includes an infrared EKG monitor that resets the Game each time a heartbeat is detected. Heartbeat data is analyzed by a hackduino which resets an ATMega48 chip, part of Adafruit’s kit controlling Life, which is embedded in the chest of a hoodie.  Conductive thread is used to connect the 16 LED matrix to the circuit board which is kept in a pocket towards the bottom of the hoodie.

If you are checking this out and are unfamiliar with John Conway’s Game of Life, please read about it, as it is a seminal piece of work, in my opinion one of the most important intersections of art and science.  For the LED matrix playing Life, I used Adafruit’s kit, which is brilliantly designed – able to be daisy chained for larger boards. Unfortunately (or, perhaps, fortunately) I only had one kit to work with, which mean a 4×4, 16 LED matrix. I decided to use red LEDs, as they represent life, blood, and the heart much more to me than green. Also makes this an even better Valentine’s Day gift 😉  I decided that since I was embedding this into a hoodie, I would not need her PCB, which is bulky.  I designed my own breakout for her chip, which you can see in the circuit towards the end of the post.

I used conductive thread to connect each LED from the chest of the hoodie to the pocket holding the circuit and battery, which is lined with an anti-static bag, inside the wearer’s left hip area. The LED embedding technique was picked up from Becky Stern, and worked out quite well. It was, however, a challenging amount of sewing for a novice such as myself, however I accepted the challenge.  I would say it came out functionally ‘great’ and aesthetically ‘ok’.

Check out the flickr set that documents the entire build process.

For detecting heartbeats, I recreated a circuit originally saw on Make, and then through further research found Meng Li‘s project, and finally this schematic – many thanks to Justin Downs for posting his work. The technology here is very simple – an infrared LED (emitter) and detector pair can “see” through your finger: each time blood is pulsed through (= a heartbeat) there is a spike in the amount of light detected.  A LOT of fidgeting and troubleshooting went down in building this circuit, and the result in the video only looks so nice because of a lot of smoothing and averaging done in the code.

Here’s a breakdown of the final circuit I designed to run the hoodie:

It most definitely overkill to be using 2 28-pin ATMega chips for a job that could most definitely be done by one. In Adafruit’s glorious open-sourcery, all code is even posted for their Game! Unfortunately, I do not yet own an AVR programmer and their chip is not bootloaded or supported by the Arduino IDE (the code is all in C). Soon enough I will get my hands on a programmer and if a second version of this arises, I will most certainly use just one chip.

This project would not have happened without Ira Goldberg and Becky Stern.

[pluto-festival] :: festival images

I have started to (FINALLY) upload images from the pluto festival where I exhibited my spatialized umbrella project, in Opwijk, Belgium October 1 -4, 2009.

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Spatialized Umbrella v01

This is my first prototype of the Spatialized Umbrella.

The Spatialized Umbrella project offers an entirely new dimension to walking in the rain. Using light and sound spatialization this umbrella creates an immersive, mobile, and highly personal multi‐sensory environment.  Range sensing technology helps the Spatialized Umbrella react to your movement through a space.

5 speakers and LEDs are mounted inside of the umbrella, around the users’ head, allowing for sound and light spatialization.  The ‘raindrop’ samples play in a loop, each speaker playing their own unique raindrop. The LEDs light up the speaker playing at that moment. The tempo of the loop is controlled by a long-range Sharp Infrared range finder.  The closer an object is to you, the faster the loop plays. If an object is close enough and a threshold is reached, a lightning sequence is triggered. Best part: COMPLETELY SAFE FOR USE IN THE RAIN.

This video is actually an early version of the code, and I apologize for not using a microphone INSIDE the umbrella (it’s hard to hear the ‘raindrop’ sounds). New video soon.

The most time consuming part of the project was in soldering the PCB i used (i wanted it to be small to fit at the top, so the entire arduino did not make sense). I designed my own “mapduino” circuit and used an IC socket for the ATMega168 chip to sit in on the PCB. This way i can just pop the chip out and replace it with another I have reprogrammed on an Arduino. Rigging the umbrella also took a little while.

***ALL SOUND IS MADE USING ONLY AN ARDUINO AND 8OHM SPEAKERS:: lookup tables store values for waveshaping, which is output directly from Digital Pins from the ATmega chip. See the current version of the code, which can be found HERE.

still to do: linearize the IR data so that there is a more even rate of change in the tempo. When I began, I also had the thought to use an accelerometer, to measure the direction of movement. BUT, I have been successful tonight in reading data from a digital compass sensor, which can give me degrees of rotation — like say if the user spins the umbrella, i could have the sound/light spin around the users head in that direction, at that speed. This is much more interesting data than an accelerometer, in my opinion.

>> UPDATE :: Featured on HackaDay.com and ArduinoShow.com and CoolCircuit.com !!

Sharp Infrared Range Finder sensors

Click on image to walk through a great lesson myself, kerstin, and cecilia put together about Sharp Infrared range finding sensors. there’s info in there about pin connections, the 3 types of sharp IRs, and code for mapping, smoothing, and calibrating the range finder data.

HERE is the link to the page, if your resolution isn’t high enough for lightbox. and code links:


Smoothing and Mapping a tri-color LED

..and a vid – sorry, didn’t realize our hands were so out of frame when we filmed it — but you get the idea: closer the bluer, the further the redder the LED gets. this is demoing the last arduino code link i just listed.


Luminosphere • v0.5

Finally finished!!!

Here it is in all it’s glory, luminosphere. You can check out my Arduino code HERE

I also had to make a product sheet, the PDF file can be downloaded HERE.  There is also an image of it, in case you don’t want to download (always a hassle, i know).

I am going to sell this item on Etsy.com, i’ll post up here when i post it on there. probably will sell for $20, and my teacher, Yury, has guaranteed anyone who sells something they make for class for more than the cost of parts, an AUTOMATIC ‘A’.

so buy my stuff. thx. bye. UPDATE: http://jmsaavedra.etsy.com (!!!)


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User Testing • Luminosphere v0.4

Welcome to my User Test for NiteLite Luminosphere®!

I invite you to examine the concept and look of a new product to be released worldwide in March 2009.

NiteLite® is a product to be used in any darkened room. Simply turn NiteLite® on, and enjoy the vibrant colors radiating from the base of the product and then watch in awe at the projection of colors on your ceiling or wall!

Watch a video of NiteLite® in action!


Learn about additive color synthesis, as Red, Blue and Green light mix to make White, and every color in between! **assuming projection surface is white to begin with

Here’s a diagram of how it works!

Now for a few questions:

1. What are your initial reactions to NiteLite®? Are you interested in using this product?

2. Do you want to have any control, or do you desire any physical interaction with the product (ie, pressing buttons to alter the light)?

3. What do you think could/should change about the NiteLite®’s physical design? Size? Shape?

4. What room of your domicile would you put NiteLite® in?

5. What sorts of activities do you think you would partake in, while in a room with NiteLite® turned on?

6. Is there any functionality you would want NiteLite® to have? Features?

7. Any other comments?

8. Would you consider purchasing this product, and how much would you pay?

Messa di Voce

about 2 weeks ago, i got the chance to see one of my teachers, zachary lieberman, perform at NYU. It was a piece called Messa di Voce which in italian means “placing the voice”. It essentially is an interactive visualizer for the human voice in real time. IR light and cameras track the performers’ location on stage and 2 projectors were used side by side to project the visualizations of their respective voices. here’s some video that i took —


thanks to stephanie for letting me borrow her camera!

LED time piece • v03

third iteration of the timepiece project for computation. we were allowed to use PWM (pulse width modulation) with the LEDs, so now they can FADE, not just on/off. i created a “nite light”, that projects the colors vertically onto your ceiling. it’s a nice effect, i feel alright about it. the green is brighter than red or blue (this is just a fact about color LEDs, green and yellow are brightest), so a perfect WHITE is never reached.

i also added buttons as you can see here – the toggle, simply breaks the ground to all the LEDs, essentially turning the device off (although in reality, the arduino is still running the sequence).  holding either the red or black push buttons down triggers a different sequence of light color.

daito manabe visits parsons

today, zach lieberman surprised our class (audio visual systems + machines) with a special appearance by his pal, daito manabe. daito has reached quai-youtube fame with a couple videos. here’s one.


here is a video that i took, of daito shocking my friend nick’s arm and face, at school.


and an image of me and daito!!

but this is just one project he is involved in. while i have an affinity for electrodes on the human body, i’m not so interested in controlling or manipulating the body itself. i’m more interested in taking data (via EKG, EEG, GSR, EMG) from the body and applying it to audio and video – but i’ll post more about that later (my ars collab will be about this, maybe thesis material also?

the project of daito’s that I am MORE interested in currently, is his that resembles my work of the last 8 weeks. this one:


each cube has a microphone and a PIC chip. the PIC is listening for specific frequencies of tones, and also patterns of the notes being played. when it hears a specific note it might blink a specific color. when it hears a specific pattern of notes, it might glow a specific color for a length of time. daito has handed these out at shows before, and then during the show inserted a pattern of notes. the cubes then all respond from all around the room, and has a great effect.  in essence, it is serial communication through sound. brilliant.  I’ll post a vid of daito showing me the insides of the cubes, as well as zach lieberman trying on daito’s electrode stimulus system, real soon.