Working on the sitting sensor

The most important step Danielle made this week is the formulation of the costumer journey. We distinguish four different kinds of users: The Plug-and-float, De-kleine-onderzoeker, the Lab manager and the QS-wizard. The Plug-and-float is the individual user who wants to improve the quality of her own meditation session. She focuses on looking at the data and improving the meditation through actuation. De-kleine-onderzoeker wants to do research about the environment. She wants to know which actuation has the most positive effect. She organizes experiments for herself or for a bigger group. The Lab manager maintains the suits for a bigger group. She is able to work on the sensors and the actuation by adding or removing sensors or actuators. The QS-wizard wants to make new applications by herself. For every kind of user, Danielle described the way how they have to use the software. This costumer journey is the starting point for the software.

On Monday Danielle went to ProtoSpace in Utrecht to meet the software engineer and the system architect to discuss the data server. We learned that the micro controller has to be programmed in a more modular way to make it future proof. This makes it more complex than we thought first.

Today we worked on the sitting sensor. The data we got from the old one where to unstable. The sitting sensor is the on/off button for the system. As soon as you are sitting it will be logging your session. But that also means that the whole session is interrupted as soon as the sitting sensor does not work. We knew that the surface of the sitting sensor has to be bigger so that it is no problem if you move a little. But the one we had was too big, so it was pretty expensive and not comfortable.

sitting sensor - conductive foil 15x7 cm

sitting sensor – conductive foil 15×7 cm

As you can see in our notes below the conductive foil was 15×7 cm first. Before sitting the
value was about 880 or 860. While sitting it was about 140. That is a big range which makes it possible that you can move while meditating without interrupting the session. We cut the conductive foil in half to test if it would work if it was smaller. You see that the range of the value became much smaller and the sensor was actually too unstable again. This might have also been caused by lack of conductivity. We cut off the tape as you can see below.

sitting sensor - conductive foil

sitting sensor – conductive foil 15×3,5 cm

notes sitting sensor - conductive foil

notes sitting sensor – conductive foil

But we thought maybe the conductive cloth we have conducts better than the conductive foil, so that the small one of 15×3,5 cm would be enough to get a bigger range. We just tried and as you can see our experiment was successful. With the conductive cloth from 15×3,5 cm we got the best values with the biggest range ever. For now this one is our choice. Next week we have to work on how you can include it in the suit.

conductive cloth

sitting sensor – conductive cloth 15×3,5 cm

notes sitting sensor - conductive cloth

notes sitting sensor – conductive cloth

I see how difficult it is to be the team leader. Danielle has the vision.
She wants to reach her goal, but sees how ambitious it is. It seems very difficult to me to stay true to your own vision if there are still organizational problems you have to solve. We try to formulate a common vision so that every team member knows our plans. This vision has to be the base everyone is familiar with so that every team member goes for it. But I am optimistic: Together we will get there!






Neck sensor does his work

Last week we made great steps developing the sensors and the electronics.

We chose another sensor for in the neck. It detects movement to the extent we want it. We found a solution to include the sensor in the Silence Suit. We went further with the experiments we did last week. We chose another cloth for the turtleneck which is more flexible. It sits tight enough at the neck that the sensor can detect every move you make. Although there are still some small disturbances, three different angles can be detected very well. We can determine movement forward, to the right as well as to the left.

neck sensor - detecting every move you make

neck sensor – detecting every move you make

To make it more comfortable we cut it out at the front. So, the turtleneck will not influence your breathing. It is still sketchy but we are very happy we found a way that it works. Now it is up to our designer to optimize the look.

turtleneck - cut out at the front

turtleneck – cut out at the front

We have found a new sensor detecting the pressure between your fingers. We want detect light pressure. It is more sensitive than the one we used before. The amount of pressure between your fingers during meditation is a good indicator of your concentration level.

We changed the microcontroller we want to use. We included a battery so you can recharge it easily by connecting the microcontroller to your computer.

German has introduced us to a convenient platform to communicate with each other. We share our progress questions and discoveries among ourselves using Dropbox Paper. We are really happy that we can work together on one vision by sharing our thoughts that easily.

Dropbox Paper

Dropbox Paper

Danielle’s research about the influence of the light is difficult because there is not that much investigated about it. We are waiting for the thesis of an intern from Philips Research who has focused on the influence of light on relaxation. The experiments Danielle wants to do with the sketch of the Silence Suit cannot be thought out because she misses some academical input. So, if you maybe know some interesting literature about the influence of light either on psychological or on scientific level, please let us know by leaving a comment.

Today I picked up how important it is to go on. No matter how small the steps seem that you make, they are all crucial to reach your goal. As you can see, we are making crucial steps to realize the Meditation Lab Experimenter Kit. And we can enjoy every small success we have, for instance the solution of the neck sensor today. But there is still much to do. I am excited what comes next.

Relief! The organisational problems reduce

Last week, I was busy with sewing the sketch of the Silence Suit. But I also was busy with the project in my head. I really was wondering how Danielle’s week would pass. Last time she seemed stressed and exhausted because of many organisational problems. So before I came this time I really hoped that many problems would have been solved. I was excited if the wearable would fit and if we could start looking for the sensors and the wiring.

So the question in the beginning “How are you? And how was your week?” had an extra meaning today. She seemed relieved: “I could eliminate many stress factors”, she says. That means she knows every team member can meet the milestones. Moreover, she does not have to solve the organisational problems all on her own anymore, but her mentor will take them on.

Because she didn’t have to focus on these things anymore, Danielle could concentrate on the corporation with Design Lab. Students from the University of Twente will work on the design, the developing and the production of the PCB’s for the microcontroller. Furthermore, they will optimise the suit and the cabling, as well as the interaction with the suit.

“So this is all very good news. But my highlight was the visit of Tom Bergman from Philips Research.” Last Friday he came to show the opportunities to influence the sphere of the environment by light. Danielle could try if the light has some influence on her mood by putting on the wearable. She could see that intensity and colour of the light can be detected by the sensors of the suit by sitting in front of the apparatus of Philips. The experiment was successful and we know that the apparatus is strong enough to influence the environment.

testing the influence of light - with Tom Bergman from Philips

testing the influence of light – with Tom Bergman from Philips

It is a well known phenomenon that you can recharge your energy by experiencing nature. It is called restoration and Danielle already worked with it in one of her projects Virtual View. But is seems that this phenomenon also works with light. Maybe light could work as influence as well as expression of the quality of the meditation session.

Besides that, we want to focus on the sensors and the cabling today. The sensor in the neck that detects movement has to be optimised. We make a first try by just sticking the sensor on the neck. We want to try where the sensor has to sit, so it detects the movement the best. We validate what Danielle already expected: The sensor has to sit as high as possible on your neck.

neck sensor - logging different positions

neck sensor – logging different positions

Moreover, we have to work on the sketch of the wearable I made. Because the sensor has to be included in the neck of the wearable. On the one hand, the sensor has to sit that tight that it detects every movement, but on the other hand it still has to sit comfortable. We try different options. We choose a turtleneck with some Velcro at the front to open, close and tighten the suit. But that is not enough. Also the other option we tried with some elastic does not work. It is still too slack and the sensor does not move enough to detect. So next week we have to look for another option. We already have some idea’s in our hearts but maybe you know a solution for our issue. So how would you solve that problem? Let us know by leaving a comment.

turtleneck - trying to include the neck sensor in the sketch of the vest

turtleneck – trying to include the neck sensor in the sketch of the vest

So you see by outsourcing tasks which stress you, you can focus on the things you like the most. It was really nice to see Danielle that happy and relieved today. I learned for myself how worthwhile it an be to ask one another for help. You see the value of a team. Maybe the things you are struggling with are for others much less complicated.



The start of realising the Meditation Lab

Hello, I am Meike Kurella. I am an art student finishing the final year of the art academy St.Joost, Breda. For the next half year I am doing my internship at Awareness Lab. I am going to help Danielle Roberts by blogging about the process and helping her with all kind of hands on tasks. For me, it will offer an insight in the daily life of an artist. I am really interested how a network of artists and scientists works and I would like to discover what technology could mean for my work.

I am really excited we can start realising the Meditation Lab together. I want to follow and to determine the whole process of the project. That is why I will give an overview in form of a weekly blog. This is how I experienced my first day at Awareness Lab.

In the morning, Danielle explains her plans and shows me the prototype of the Silence Suit. She gets the wearable on. “It has to become a ritual”, she says. It does not look very comfortable. So I ask her if she wants some help. “Oh no, just enjoy the moment, you are the public”, she says and goes on. She got it. Every sensor, every cable is connected to the microcontroller. To optimise the process of putting on the wearable Danielle has recorded an MP3 file so you can listen to her instructions by scanning a QR-code. Thus, putting on the wearable becomes a part of the whole experience. We start the system and it does not work. “You see, we have to work on it”, she says and laughs. She has no idea why it does not work. We have to test some options before it is fixed. She logs while we are sitting at the computer in her studio. But the session terminates every time she moves too much. We have to work on the sensor that detects sitting. The errors have to be eliminated. There are already some tests done to choose the right sensor. Danielle had three options for different sensors. By logging sessions with each of the three sensors she could make a choice. “You see, the blue one is the best.” That seems to be how it works: Trial and error.

meditation stool - testing the different sitting sensors

meditation stool – testing the different sitting sensors

sitting sensors - logging the three different options

sitting sensors – logging the three different options

Danielle already planned the project before she knew she could realise the Meditation Lab. She already knew who would be her mentor, who would help her realising the software system and who would design the wearable. She already had everything worked out before she knew the expectations of WEAR Sustain. After she won the call she learned about rules and limitations on spending the budget. That is why many plans have to be changed. It costs much time that she actually wanted to use to do some test en trials. These are organizational problems you have to deal with.

But as an artist Danielle wants to do research and create things. That is why she continues by doing research about the meaning of a habit. She wants to reform the design of the wearable. It has to become more classic so you get the association of a contemporary monk. Next week we will meet Léanne, the designer, to tell her about the new plans. Moreover, Danielle already spoke to Doshin, her meditation teacher. By connecting with inspiring people and talking to experts like Doshin she wants to increase the importance of the Silence Suit for your meditation session.

Doshin - trying on the silence suit

Doshin – trying on the Silence Suit

She plans to develop a questionnaire that you have to fill in before and after your meditation session. So you can quantify the quality of your experience. That is only one point of Danielle’s very long wish list for the Meditation Lab.

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…

xbee hello world!

Today I’ve had my first success with communicating between two Xbees. Mostly thanks to this simple but clear tutorial. After installing the XCTU software with Thijs a few months back I had forgotten quite a lot of his private class “introduction to Xbee”. From his instructions I ordered 7 Xbee antenna’s and one Xbee explorer USB. My goal is to make an Xbee network without using Arduinos with the Xbees. This apparently is possible. But before getting to that point I had to make an Xbee “hello world” to grasp the concept and get the basics right.

In this picture you see the a light sensor attached to an Arduino and Xbee antenna. The Arduino prints the measurements to the serial port. Through the TX and RX pin the Arduino is connected to the Xbee antenna. This sends data to the other Xbee antenna that acts as a receiver. The data is printed in red in the XCTU terminal on the right.

On to the next step: running the Xbee on a battery and programming the Xbee pins to read and send the wind sensor data. To be continued…

server side

Last week I visited the nice people of Sense OS. They offer a very powerful platform for working with sensor data: CommonSense. I talked to them about hosting my breathing_time performance on their system.They are enthusiastic about the project and want to take on the challenges that they’re up against.

Sense OS logo

The idea is that I make an account especially for breathing_time that will include the 5 wind sensors. The main challenges are: synchronisation of the different data streams and the real time aspect. As for synchronisation all the participants will have to install Network Time Protocol (NTP) software. This will ensure that all the computers use exactly the right time.

The data will be near real time. Every device will send an array with 5 data points every 500 milliseconds. And every second it’ll retrieve the 10 most recent data points for visualisation. We will use threads to make sure that hiccups in the connection or the network won’t disturb the flow of data. A local time stamp will be used to ensure every device always has the most recent data.

This sounds like a sound strategy the ensure flow through and speed. We’ll have to test of course to see how quick the data is send.

It’s been very nice talking to experts in this field. I feel the server side aspect of the performance is in safe hands with them.

wind sensor demo

Yesterday we managed to get the first wind sensor working. Together with Richard I  connected the sensor to the RBBB board, calibrated it and read some wind/breath data from the serial port into Processing. It works surprisingly well:

I have already noticed that the distance from the sensor to the nostrils is critical. I’ll have to experiment. Richard had a nice idea. I should use the tubes to direct the air from the nostrils straight to the sensor for the most accurate result. I will give it a try. It will make the wearable more scary but that doesn’t have to be a problem :)

analogue input

Today I did a little test using analogue input for my LED. I build my third RBBB today and wanted to take the LED output a little further. For my breathing device it will have to respond to the analogue input of breathing. So I emulated that with a light sensor. Covering the sensor less or more changed the brightness of the LED. For a start it was fine, but with breathing the LED will have to go from no light to very much light to give proper feedback on the respiration pattern.