Things come together in Twente

Last week we went to University Twente to meet Vera de Pont, our designer, and Klaas and Stephen, two of the students of DesignLab, working on the electronics and the software of the Silence Suit. It was a very exciting day to me. Before, I did not really know what to expect from the meeting. But I planned to take the role of an observer reflecting on how a meeting with people from different kind of disciplines proceeds. I have obtained interesting observations I want to share with you in the following.

Meeting in Twente - Vera, Danielle, Klaas, Stephen

Meeting in Twente – Vera, Danielle, Klaas, Stephen

Network
When we arrived, Danielle introduced Vera and me to Frank Kresin, the managing director of DesignLab. He warmly welcomed us. He asked us: ‘What is your background?’ I explained where I am from: ‘I am studying fine arts at the art academy St.Joost in Breda. I am finishing my final year and among other things I am doing my internship at Danielle’s Awareness Lab.’ He smiled warmly and said something like it was nice to meet. Vera’s answer was much more professional. She really explained what her work is about and which techniques she is familiar with: ‘At the moment, I am focussing on 3D printing’, she said, ‘so I am especially engaged in the graphical side of design.’ Frank seemed interested and wished us a productive meeting.

After we walked away, I wondered what his question was about. It was all about networking. Danielle explained later that he is into connecting people with each other. I guess that Vera is now saved in his memory and he associates her with the words she dropped within this short encounter. When somebody asks him the next time for a designer engaged in 3D print he will think about her. When it comes to my person, he only associates the intern of Danielle. That is neither good or bad, but the next time somebody asks me such a question I will know what this question is about. I need to name the core concept of my artistic practice in a few words.

I think it is good to be aware of such behavioural codes in the art world as well as in your daily life. As a child you have to learn what the answer should be if somebody asks you ‘How are you?’ We should say: ‘Good. How are you?’ At a certain point those behavioural codes go unknowingly. At the moment I am still the growing child. I am really thankful that I am learning from this internship about the behavioural codes in the art world.

In the course of the meeting I found it really interesting how an interdisciplinary collaboration proceeds. The Silence Suit has to meet many requirements such as beautiful look, stable data and convenient fit. In the following I will reflect on the different kinds of roles of the designer, the technician and the artist.

The role of the designer
Vera de Pont arrived with a big suitcase. ‘I thought it would be better to take some swatches with me, so that we can try different things. The suit itself is not that big.’, she says and laughs. She was well prepared. When we entered the meeting room she immediately unpacked her suitcase and presented the different parts of the suit on a table. I really loved to see how attentive she treated the suit she has made.

Preparing the suit for fitting - by Vera de Pont

Preparing the suit for fitting – by Vera de Pont

The first half of the meeting was about the progress of the electronics. She had many practical questions for the technicians about the look of the badge and the microcontroller container, so that she could include it in the following sketch of the suit. She properly wrote down every information she got about the electronics. In that first half of the meeting, the role of the designer was to understand as much as possible of the electronics to optimise the design of the suit.

Danielle fits the bottom layer - looking for solutions with Vera de Pont

Danielle fits the bottom layer – looking for solutions with Vera de Pont

The second half of the meeting was really about the fit of the suit. Vera seemed very excited when Danielle fit the suit. ‘It is so nice to see it on you.’ She said with a great smile on her face. It fits very well and she seems pleased that Danielle likes it. We have to think of each sensor, where it should be placed and how the cable connects to the microcontroller. Vera came up with new ideas how we could bring the electronics and the design together until everyone agreed. Her arguments were mainly about the look and that it should be as comfortable as possible for the user to maintain the suit. I was really impressed how focused she stayed during the whole meeting. In the second half of the meeting the role of the designer really seemed to be a living source of inspiration. She really thought in options instead of problems.

Danielle fits the suit - by Vera de Pont

Danielle fits the suit – by Vera de Pont

The role of the technician
Stephen and Klaas are both master students of University Twente participating in the DesignLab working on the software and the electronics of the Silence Suit. The DesignLab seemed to feel like home to them and I experienced how deep they are into the subject. They even worked through their lunch break. Before we met, they have worked many hours to optimise the construction of the badge and the microcontroller PCBs. They were able to minimise the number of plugs. Stephen and Klaas seemed happy about the outcome of their research.

Sketch of the electronics - by Klaas

Sketch of the electronics – by Klaas

Finally, they got a nice sketch of the electronics. But still, Vera and Danielle had some questions about optimising the electronics. For example, a screw connection of the plugs would be better than a clicking one. The argumentation of the technicians was mainly based on what the market offers. If there are no screw connections for that kind of plugs, they cannot do anything about it. But they were also trying to understand Danielle’s vision of the suit to bring it to a higher level on the field of electronics. They came up with the idea to change the light sensor with the wind sensor on the badge, so that the shadow of the plug will not influence the data. I enjoyed to see how they tried to think in the artist’s shoes.

Danielle consults about the electronics with Klaas and Stephen

Danielle consults about the electronics with Klaas and Stephen

The role of the technician stayed the furthest away from me. I was really impressed how much they know about their subject, but I only understood some of it. Still, I see the role of technician as a really practical one. In contrast to a designer or an artist who create things, the technician’s choice is more depending on existing things.

The role of the artist
I think the role of the artist is a really personal choice. Every artist has to formulate his own criteria. In the following I will try to characterise the role of the artist as I observed it in the case of Danielle during the meeting with Vera, Stephen and Klaas. Danielle herself told me once that she sees her own artistic practice in bringing things together. Her personal fascination leads to the vision of a project. In this case her vision is about Hermitage 3.0. The role of the artist here is to plan smaller steps to realise that vision. One of these steps is the Silence Suit as a part of Hermitage 3.0. Within that project the artist has to look for experts and people she wants to collaborate with. That is why we are sitting in Twente around a table with Vera, Klaas and Stephen.

During that meeting, Danielle kept on task all the time. But for me it seems very difficult to find the balance between practical choices and visual choices without losing your vision. For example, when Klaas told her that there is no screw connection for that kind of plug, she did not want to believe it and asked him to research once more. She asked it in a very respectful way, but I witnessed that an artist does not want to depend on existing things. Maybe Danielle’s role as an artist is comparable to a tinkerer.

Danielle presents the bottom layer of the suit by Vera de Pont

Danielle presents the bottom layer of the suit by Vera de Pont

Generally speaking, I think that an artist has to offer alternatives to existing structures. In my opinion, Danielle contributes valuable aspects by collaborating with different kind of disciplines. She creates her own universe by utilising different kind of research as a source of inspiration. The collaborations and the diversity of sources of inspiration make that she comes to a vision which could not have been thought out by one person.

To conclude this eventful day, it can be said that I acquired an in-depth view on how a collaboration in that professional environment looks like. I have especially learned a lot about the role of an artist by seeing how Danielle defines her artistic practice. That helps me to think about my future position in the art world.

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Design Lab nirvana

Ready, set, go!

After a difficult start things are really starting to move. Since a couple of weeks all the team members are working on their individual tasks: the database design, the interaction design, suit design, PCB design and experiment design. The project feels like a sort of organism that grows organically in different directions. I keep track of what everybody is up to via Skype or phone but nothing beats a face to face meeting. Last week we had such a meeting at the Design Lab Twente.

Teamwork, photo Meike Kurella

Teamwork, photo Meike Kurella

From 12 o’ clock onwards the Lab had kindly reserved a room for our team to collaborate. Present were Klaas and Stephen students from the TU Twente, designer Vera and my intern, art student Meike.

Klaas and Stephen have been working hard on the PCB design. Their main task is to simplify the design and make it more robust. Vera had been working on the first silhouette of the suit. Our goal for the afternoon was to check if things were still matching up.

Paper sensor, photo Vera de Pont

Paper sensor, photo Vera de Pont

Match maker

The boys walked me through their designs. We were able to clarify things for each other and we spend quite some time on the plug layout and the interaction with them.
I’m learning more and more to think like a designer by assuming the role of the user and by quick prototyping of problems and interaction hiccups. I really loved the way Vera and I found solutions by taking a different angle, using paper, key-cards and even a jojo to make future usage tangible.

Key-card as batch, photo Vera de Pont

Key-card as batch, photo Vera de Pont

Vera and I also discussed the fit and aesthetics. Wearing the suit has to be a pleasant experience that has to be put to the test. At the end of the afternoon Stephen said: You must like the way it fits, you’ve been wearing the suit all afternoon. And he is right, it does feel good to wear it.

Storing wires, photo Vera de Pont

Storing wires, photo Vera de Pont

I also loved the way in which we all are working towards something which still isn’t completely clear to any of us. I use intuition, faith and persistence to keep trying to bring the different worlds together. I’m discovering that this is what comes natural to me. Merging these worlds, looking for solutions to make the most of a problem and connecting different ways of thinking to come up with something that surprises myself.

Hardware and design, photo Vera de Pont

Hardware and design, photo Vera de Pont

Calling

I started this project with the aspiration to become a modern hermit. But more and more I’m beginning to see that I am made for teamwork, that I love to inspire and be inspired. Nothing beats creating something new together. I suppose I’ll be the first part-time hermit.

Trying to get the complexity of the project

For me the project becomes more and complex. So in this blog post I will try to give you an overview of different aspects of the project around the Silence Suit, the correlations of these aspects and my difficulties with this complexity.

Developing the button further
To keep it concrete, I will first explain to you what we did today. I helped Danielle to develop further the button I introduced to you last time. We learned that it is not necessary to use this button to mark an exceptional experience while meditating. But we want to use it to mark a moment when something in the environment changes. Think about the changing of light or loud noise. We want to mark the moment in your timeline when something happens which influences your meditation session so you can see later the impact by analysing your data. So we try to include the button in the suit as comfortable as possible. First we thought about a glove, but now we found out that a ring should be better. The button has to be as small as possible. We also think about assembling the button like we made the sitting sensor with conductive fabric. That would make it much more comfortable if there is no hard piece on the ring.

button ring - to mark negative influences of your surroundings

button ring – to mark negative influences of your surroundings

Baseline measurements
But why is it not necessary to mark an extraordinary positive experience anymore? That has to do with the artificial intelligence of the software. I find it difficult to understand how it works precisely. But we learned from the data scientist that the software will learn itself what a good meditation session is. To make it a learning system you need many baseline measurements. A baseline measurement means that you track your meditation session without any actuation. Before and after meditating you have to fill in the questionnaire developed by Danielle in consultation with different experts. She has formulated many questions which are relevant. By detecting a minimum of 30 sessions in combination with this questionnaire the system can start to figure out which aspects are the most important to make it a good session.

questionnaire - by Google Forms

questionnaire – by Google Forms

Between scientific research and design thinking
It is important that the data are correct so you can utilize them in a scientific way. That is among other things one aspect which makes the project so complex. On the one hand it is a scientific research. On the other hand the suit arises from a design mentality, which intends to make it as chic and as comfortable as possible at the same time. Otherwise the user will not use it for his own scientific research. Furthermore, Danielle has her vision as an artist to bring all these disciplines together to create a completely new and unknown outcome. The Silence Suit is actually a small part of the bigger vision of Hermitage 3.0. But how does Danielle handle the complexity of her vision? I think one aspect is among others that she assumes different kind of roles in the project. At one point she assumes the role of the researcher and at another point she really thinks as a designer. That makes it possible to keep the complexity. To deepen different aspects, she asks different kinds of experts for help.

Costumer journey, flow charts and wire frames
That is also how she worked to develop the wire frames. We have to think about what the screen will look like, so that the user will know how to use the database for his own interests. First, Danielle assumed different kinds of roles as users. She developed a costumer journey for each user. From this costumer journey an expert has created a flow chart. That brings the costumer journey to a more abstract level. The flow chart serves as an intermediate step from costumer journey to the wire frames. The wire frames will finally indicate the functionality of each screen, so that every user can use it for his own interests.

Flow chart - one user case

Flow chart – one user case, by Anne van den Heuvel

So as you can see there are many things in development. Many things are going well and every team member is working hard to bring the Silence Suit to a higher level. Of course, there are still many things which have to be explored, but that keeps it interesting. I find it really nice to see that after so many organizational problems in the beginning, we really make great steps to realize a meaningful research project. Next week, we will visit the DesignLab Twente where we will meet Vera de Pont to bring the electronics and the new design of the suit together. I am really excited about that meeting and I hope to give you another inspiring insight in our project next time.

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Exploring a new button

I honestly have to say that the project seems to go really well. I enjoy every day of my internship because every week there is something new to develop. Every time I am excited what comes next and which idea’s will be altered and which will be completely new. As every week I will give you a little impression of what has happened recently.

The design of the Silence Suit is in development. Vera de Pont works hard to optimize the sketches and to start sewing as soon as possible. This week she came along to show some different cloths. She also presented her newest sketches of the suit.

Bottom layer of Silence Suit by Vera de Pont

The idea of a contemporary monk is taking shape.  The air circulation is also optimized by including the pattern in the design. To decorate the suit in a practical way, she plans to embroider graphic icons on the pockets of the different sensors. So, you know all the sensors and it simplifies the maintenance of the suit after washing it.

embroidery - graphic icons

embroidery – graphic icons

We have to work on the artificial intelligence part of the system. At a certain point the system has to know what a good meditation session is to influence it in a positive way. The goal is to program a good meditation session. The programmer wants to know constitutes meditation quality? To answer that question a lot of tests have to be done.

By means of a questionnaire in combination with the data of the session Danielle wants to do research about the quality of the meditation. Therefore, she plans to include a new sensor in the suit and we already did some tests with it this week. The plan is to lengthen one sleeve of the under vest to a glove. We have to include two buttons in the glove that you can push while meditating without moving that much.

button - to mark an extraordinary positive or negative experience

button – to mark an extraordinary positive or negative experience

One button will mark an extraordinary positive experience in the timeline of the session. You have to push the other one if there is a negative influence of your surroundings. For example, if the light instrument falls down or there is some background noise you can push the button. The system will mark that point in your timeline and you can see afterwards the effect of that occurrence on your meditation.

The form as well as the content of the Silence Suit are in development. As you can see every week we are making steps to get a grip on the complexity of the project.

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Kick-off in Twente

We are very happy we can work together with three students from Design Lab, a creative and cross-disciplinary ecosystem at the University of Twente.

Kick-off in Twente - two of the students of the DesignLab

Kick-off in Twente – two of the students of the DesignLab

This week Danielle went for two days to Twente to visit the students who will focus on the electronics and the embedded software. They will focus on the PCB’s and the 3D printing of the box for the PCB’s which will be included in the Silence Suit. After explaining the main idea of Hermitage 3.0 the intention of the Meditation Lab Experimenter Kit became clearer to them and they know what has to be done to optimize the Silence Suit.

The second day they already had some refreshing ideas about the electronics. To make the system more stable they will look for new connectors. Among others the connection between the suit and the vest will be optimized. They will reduce the cables from all the analogue sensors to one cable. They will explore if you can connect the suit to the vest by connecting it at one point.

In two weeks we will meet again to discuss the progress of the project and to look how we can include the electronics in the Silence Suit.

Another highlight this week was the skype meeting with Vera de Pont. She is working on the design of the Silence Suit. We are working towards an image of a contemporary monk. Vera had great ideas about how we can make the suit more timeless, unisex and nevertheless stylish. She is working on a poncho-like idea of the suit which will make it lighter so you can meditate comfortably.

first design by Vera de Pont - poncho like suit

first design by Vera de Pont – poncho like suit

Maybe the bottom layer can have long sleeves so you won’t get too cold in the winter. To make it light enough for in the summer Vera will look at cutting out a pattern. Therefore she plans to use a laser cutter as well was for the cabling. She wants to include the cabling in the design of the suit by making it visible at the surface area.

hand weave pattern - noting down your personal progress

hand weave pattern

It could underline the modern innovative image of the Silence Suit. Vera wants to work with pockets for the sensors and box. She plans to work with graphic icons to show the user clearly the content of the pockets. A weave pattern at the front of the suit might give the user the chance to personalize it. By noting down the weekly meditation sessions in the hand woven agenda you can overview your personal progress.

Danielle really likes the idea of connecting the high-tech meditation session to a classy look of a contemporary monk with some analogue aspects like the hand woven agenda. In two weeks when we meet the students in Twente Vera will come too present a textile sketch of the suit. I am excited how it looks like.

As you can see, the project is going well. By now everybody knows his tasks and can start realizing it. I think it is a great relief for Danielle. Now, she can focus on her research regarding content because she knows everything is going well.

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First visit to Léanne’s design studio

Since the last time we met, Danielle just went on with her project. She is still organising many things. The expectations of WEAR Sustain are still not fulfilled. But it takes shape and she is in contact with many people to solve the organisational problems. Phone calls and Skype meetings are on her daily agenda.

Moreover, she tries to develop the Meditation Lab by visualising a to-do list of what has to be adapted about the wearable, both for the design and the technology aspect.

Visual to-do list - design of the Silence Suit

visual to-do list – design of the Silence Suit

Meanwhile, the questionnaire is in development. The first version is finished and Danielle already logged two sessions. She still wants to add some other aspects which can influence the quality of the meditation session.

Danielle tries to organise her thoughts and plans by making a mind map. Data, relaxation, surroundings, habit, technology and insight are the most important points for her which led to other aspects she wants to explore. A great insight from creating the mind map is that the project brings together a lot of contrasts. The tradition of meditation is opposed to the technology she uses; There is a tension between not knowing and insight, between just feeling and influencing those feelings. It is the famous theme from Buddhism that there is no difference between form and emptiness. Danielle wants these contrasts to come back in the design of the Silence Suit because it is also a tension between a personal experience that you want to share with the community and a personal development that you want to express. So it also has to be a part of the design. That is why Danielle created a mood board after becoming aware of the contrasts.

mood board - organising thoughts about the design

mood board – organising thoughts about the design

The mind map and the mood board work very well to communicate her ideas to others. For me, many things become clearer now.

We visit Léanne, the designer. Danielle takes the mood board with her to show Léanne her plans. “The suit has to become less sporty and more classic. It is just another look, the base stays the same”, she explains. Léanne understands very well what Danielle wants, but it seems difficult to find the right cloth. It has to be classic, biological and preferably naturally. But it also has to be comfortable and not too thick, otherwise will get it too warm while meditating. We are going to make a sketch of the wearable, so the cloth is not so important now. But Léanne promises to look for other cloths which will fulfil Danielle’s criteria.

At the end of the day, we leave Léanne’s design studio with some dark gray biological cotton stretch, lilac linen and some black and silver network fabric. “I want to play with open and closed”, Danielle says, “maybe it can give the design a new layer, if you can see the first layer of the suit as well as the under vest.” Now I can start sewing a sketch of the suit, so we can work on the design of the cabling next week.

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working on numuseum

After a long time I’ve taken up the numuseum website. It’s been nagging me for ages that it’s so outdated and not working properly any more. I’m keeping it simple but will be implementing some new things.

designI want to create a now part (“nu” means now in Dutch) and a museum part. Now always shows the most recent data. I’ll start of with a picture of the sky with time and location data. I will overlay that with personal data like mood and heart rate. The museum part will show the now part history in some interactive way.

I’ve found a cute, free font Jaapokki Regular that I’ll be using for the website.

The menu at the bottom gives access to the archive of net-art pieces, an about and contact page.

I’ve already started coding the sky part. I use a very neat FTP app (AndFTP) to send the sky pictures to the server. A PHP script sorts the pictures (most recent first) and grabs the date-time and locations data (from EXIF headers).

home

sleepGalaxy: final design

Displaying different activities with the right duration and start time

Displaying different activities with the right duration and start time

There were still a couple of variables to visualise once the basics design was ready. I had to work on integrating my pre-sleep activity. In the end I used three activity types: sport, social and screen (computer and television). Of the first two I’d logged duration by recording start and finish time. For screen time I just logged total duration because it was often scattered.
I was looking for a way to display all aspects (type, start, finish and duration) in a way that fitted with the nice, round shapes I’d been using so far. Then I realised the pre-sleep activities were recorded from 18:00h onwards. So the main circle could act as a dial. I could split up the space from 18 till 23:59 using the activity duration. I calculated the starting position of each activity as a degree on the dial and added the minutes the activity lasted. Using the arc shape with a substantial line thickness resulted in nice, bold strokes around my “night” circles. Each activity type has its own colour.

The final night design (rating still in green)

The final night design (rating still in green)

I was happy with the result but then the recovery line just looked plain ugly. I decided to use the same arc shape on the other side of the circle. The more recovery the thicker the stroke in green. The less recovery the thicker the line in red.

Finally there was the subjective rating of the sleep. I think it is important to incorporate how the night felt for me. Emfit uses a star system from 1 to 5 stars. So I played around with stars, ellipses and other shapes but finally settled on simple golden dots. A five star night would have the fifth and biggest dot in the middle of the deep sleep circle, this seemed fitting.

UFO like rating design

UFO like rating design

When the individual nights were finished it was time for the overall poster design. I somehow had got it into my head that this would be easy. But it was quite hard the capture the look and feel I was aiming for. I wanted the poster to be simple so that the individual nights would stand out and make a nice “galaxy”. On the other had I did want a legend and some explanation of what was on display.

Sketch of the poster design

Sketch of the poster design

My first idea was to go for a size of 70 x 100 cm, the nights would have a size of around 10 cm. This was too small for all the details to be visible. My final poster will be 91 x 150 cm. The nights are big enough and they all have enough space on the sheet while it is still possible to compare them. I found the nice, slim font Matchbook for the title, the legend and text. I’ll be sending the pdf to the printer next week.

sleepGalaxy: design & calories

Design

Design

I’ve been working on the overall design step by step, alternating between coding and looking. I want to incorporate my calorie intake after 6 PM. I’m not recording the times I ate and I suspect they influence my whole sleep. So the most logical position is to circle all around the “sleep circles”. There is a lot of difference in daily intake after 6 PM, ranging from zero to 900 calories so far. I wanted to plot every calorie so they would have to change sizes depending on the amount. I also wanted to spread the calories evenly around the entire circle. How to go about that? Fortunately, I’ve found this great tutorial. The code is deprecated and the feed doesn’t seem to work any more but I managed to recycle the code concerning the plotting of the elements in a circle.

calorieViz1

Plotting numbers instead of dots

The code uses translate and rotation, which (for me) are very hard to grasp concepts. So instead of using the dots in the design I used numbers to get insight into how the elements are placed on the screen.
By keeping the size of the calorie circle constant, you can already see relations between the sleep duration, the amount of calories eaten and recovery.

cals2

Evening with a lot of calories

cals1

Evening with less calories

In the design you can also see an eclipse. These are the stress and happiness values for the whole day. I poll them by picking a number between 1 and 7 in the form at the end of the day. The mood is the bright circle. The stress circle covers the brightness depending on the amount of happiness felt during the day. By vertically changing the position, I can create a crescent. This can turn into a smile or a frown. The opacity of the black circle indicates the amount of stress. I’m coding this at the moment.

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sleepGalaxy: recovery

As I explained in my previous post I find the recovery measurement very useful. It seems a good representation of how rested I feel. It is calculated using RMSSD. The Emfit knowledge base explains it like this: “… For efficient recovery from training and stress, it is essential that parasympathetic nervous system is active, and our body gets sufficient rest and replenishment. With HRV RMSSD value one can monitor what his/her general baseline value is and see how heavy exercise, stress, etc. factors influence it, and see when the value gets back to baseline, indicating for example capability to take another bout of heavy exercise. RMSSD can be measured in different length time windows and in different positions, e.g. supine, sitting or standing. In our system, RMSSD is naturally measured at night in a 3-minute window during deep sleep, when both heart and respiration rates are even and slow, and number of movement artifacts is minimized…” Here is an example of how recovery is visualised in the Emfit dashboard:

Emfit dashboard

Emfit dashboard

I looked for a way to integrate this measure in a way fitting with my “planet metaphor”. I’ve chosen a kind of pivot idea. It vaguely reminds of the rings around planets.

Using the mouse pointer to enter different values of recovery

Using the mouse pointer to enter different values of recovery

I thought it would be easy to just draw a line straight through the middle of the circles. I wanted it to tilt depending on the height of the score. It was harder then expected. I ended up using two mirroring lines and vectors. Starting point was the excellent book by Daniel Shiffman, The nature of code.

Integrating with circle visualisations.

Integrating with circle visualisations.

Once I got the basics working, I went on to refine the way the line should look projected over the circles. Going up from the lower left corner indicates positive recovery, visualised by the green coloured line. The more opaque the better the recovery. Of course, negative recovery goes the other way around.

Slight recovery

Slight recovery

The is a difference in the starting points from which the recovery is calculated. Sometimes my evening HRV is very high. This results in a meagre recovery or even a negative recovery. I might think of an elegant way to incorporate this in the visual. May be I have to work with an average value. For the moment I’m still trying to avoid numbers.

Almost maximum recovery

Almost maximum recovery

Negative recovery

Negative recovery