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.



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.




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).


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



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.


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.


Evening with a lot of calories


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.


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

sleepGalaxy: kick off

Finally, I’ve started to work on a piece that’s been on my mind for almost two years. Ever since I met the nice people from Emfit at the Quantified Self conference. They kindly gave me their sensor in return for an artwork I would make with it.

Emfit QS

Emfit QS sleep sensor

You put the sensor in your bed, go to sleep and it wirelessly sends all kinds of physiological data to their servers: movement, heart rate, breath rate. All this data together they use to calculate the different sleep stages. From the heart rate they’ve recently started calculating HRV and recovery. This latter value to me is best indicator of my sleep quality and how energetic I feel.
Emfit offers a nice interface to explore the data and view trends.

In sleepGalaxy I want to explore the relationship between sleep quality and the following variables: exercise, social and work meetings, calorie and alcohol intake, screen time and overall happiness and stress during the day. I’m under the impression that these have the most impact on my sleep, that is, the sleep phases, the ability to stay asleep and recovery.

Google form

Google form

To track the variables I’ve created a Google form that I fill in every night before I go to sleep. I’ve set an alarm on my iPad so I don’t forget.

Excel sheet with some of the Emfit data

Excel sheet with some of the Emfit data


First circle visualisation

From all the Emfit data I’ll be using a subset. My first sketches focus on the sleep phases. I’ve spend a couple of hours programming first the basic idea: transforming the sleep phases into concentric circles. Going from awake to light sleep, REM sleep and deep sleep in the centre.

The next step was to make sure the different phases are displayed correctly, representing the amount of time spend in each phase and total time in bed. I’m programming in Processing and I’ve created an class called Night. After reading in the Emfit excel data as a csv file I loop through the rows and create a night object representing every night.
Displaying the circles went fine but the proportions between the circles just didn’t look right. I realised I had a conflict working with minutes in a decimal context. I wrote a little function that converts the minutes of the hours into decimal values and then adds them to the whole hours:
float min2dig(String time){
String[] tmp = split(time,'.');
float t = float(tmp[0])+(float(tmp[1])/60);
return t;

Now the basis of the visualisation is ready. The image below displays sleep phases of the four nights in the excel data from above. I look forward to adding more data. To be continued…

Virtual View: developing animation

The past month I’ve been working on my landscape animation. By chance I discovered a great book by Daniel Shiffman called The nature of code. The book explains how to convert natural forces into code. I’m working through the book picking the forces and algorithms that suit my needs. So far the noise function in Processing has proven very useful. It allows for creating more natural variation (as opposed to the random function.) I use it in creating the landscape horizons and some forms of animation.


Test for creating hills with Perlin noise

In a previous post I described how I calculated the colours used in a woodblock print from Hokusai. Since then I have discovered the colorlib library. A super fast library for creating palettes and gradients from existing pictures. You can sort colours and manipulate the palette using various methods. This means I can change my colours dynamically depending on user input.

Colorlib palette from Hokusai picture. Sorted on the colour green.

Colorlib palette from Hokusai picture. Sorted on the colour green.

Apart from working through the book and creating basic animations I’m working on the look and feel of the landscape.

As I explained earlier this is based on the work of Hokusai. To my delight I discovered that a colleague is one of the few Dutch experts on Japanese woodblock printing, having received training in Japan. On top of that Jacomijn den Engelsen is also an artist whom I’ve admired for years. I met with her yesterday in her studio to learn more about this fascinating technique.


Jacomijn demonstrating the Japanese woodblock printing technique.

The characteristic look of the pieces comes from the use of water based paint on wet rice paper. For every colour a separate woodblock is used. The typical black outlines are also printed from a separate block.

Screen print from animation. Colorlib gradient used for sky and water.

Screen print from animation. Colorlib gradient used for sky and water.

The prints have a very flat, 2D feel. That is what I like, it is a kind of primitive picture of a landscape. The view people will be seeing won’t be a 3D simulation of nature but an artistic representation, a work of art with healing properties.

I’m not a painter or draughtsman so I was very happy with the tips Jacomijn gave me on how to make the landscape more convincing while still keeping the ‘Japanese flatness’.

Virtual View: designing the first experiment

I had an idea what I wanted to research in my first experiment after reading the different articles. Looking at the end users, frequent visitors to hospitals and the chronically ill, I want the final piece to be first and foremost a pleasant and relaxing experience. It would be nice if there was an actual physical change that can be measured. The piece should have a stress reducing and restorative effect too. This can be both a subjective experience and a quantified measurement in form of heart-rate and heart coherence. And there are of course the landscapes and the sounds that should induce these states.

So how do you convert these goals into an experiment design? You follow a course and you ask people who have a lot more experience with designing psychological experiments!

I started out with way too complex idea. Combining stress induction and testing stimuli effects in one experiment. I’ve had great input from my professor Hein at the Open University, Sarah (PhD in psychology), Ilia (developer of stimulus creation software) and Malcolm (information scientist and psychologist) from Heartlive. Discussing my idea’s with them helped me a lot.

Together with the students I looked at the type of landscapes and sounds that would be most valuable to explore for the Virtual View installation. We’ve decided to test 5 sets with 6 landscape images based on, among other things, the most preferred landscapes as defined by Ulrich. We also explore the mystery aspect of landscapes as outlined in the attention restoration theory by Kaplan and Kaplan. Each set of images has a sound to go with it. We use one contrast set of neutral hospital interiors accompanied with hospital sounds. Another thing we want to explore is non photo realistic landscapes. As the final piece will consists of computer generated graphics with a certain degree of abstraction we want to compare the response to abstract landscape paintings to the photo realistic material.

From the little research that has been done on the effects of (nature) sounds we’ve come to different combinations of running water and birdsong. These are the sets and sounds {in curly braces}:

a. Preferred landscape with water element {running water}
b. Preferred landscape in autumn {repetitive bird calls}
c. Neutral hospital interiors {neutral hospital sounds}
d. Landscape with deflecting views {running water and melodious birdsong}
e. Preferred landscape as abstract painting {melodious birdsong}

While experiencing the stimuli the participants’ heart beat will be measured with the Heartlive sensor. This will give data in the form of beats per minute, inter beat interval and heart coherence. A questionnaire on the perceived relaxation state will give insight into how the different stimuli sets are experienced by the participants and how they effect their sense of relaxation.

We expect combination d) the have the most positive effect compared to the other sets: higher IBI values, lower BPM values and higher coherence and the most self reported relaxation. The neutral hospital interior we expect to score the lowest means on those variables.

The sets and the images in the sets are randomised for each participant. The sounds are attached to one set. The participants will see all the sets (repeated measures). In the end we’ll be able to compare the different means of all the sets.

In the next blog I’ll explain more about building the experiment in EventIDE, the stimulus creation software I mentioned above.

working with data

I’ve been experimenting with the design and data visualisation using the personal data values: mood, stress, energy level and inner peace. Depending on the data value the lines, shapes and tone of each visualisation varies. This will create a different structure for every timeslot in every day.

Inner peace will be a big organic and mysterious shape.

Energy and stress level will be pictured using horizontal an vertical lines respectively. The upper image is average energy and stress level. The lower is low energy and high stress.

Mood will be an arrow head/smiley pointing upwards or downwards. It is the most upper layer, clearly visible on the peace shape.

This is an experiment with combined output for 4 timeslots using real data. It gets a bit busy and the lines in different directions are making me feel a little giddy. So work to be done but it’s a promising start.