heartBeats — Final



I decided on using the anatomical heart over the traditional heart symbol as the core visual of my project because the human heart has  personal vulnerabilities and significance for me.

Although I am uncomfortable  with the human heart, It’s still a fascinating human organ; you lead from the heart, give from the kindness of the heart, develop love and hate from it. So, in other words, emotions are directly tied to the heart.

On the other hand, if your heart is weak, it’s debilitating. I know this first hand because my family has a history of heart issues and I’ve always associated the heart with fear, inconsistency and the unknown. Hence why my exposure  to several heart related deaths has provoked negative thoughts related to this beautiful, vital human organ we call the heart.

I want to shift my negative feelings of the heart and instead embrace it with love and have a pure, open and fearless connection.. I used my love for music from the position of a creator and listener to create heartBeats.It has four valves with push buttons attached and an FSR sensor in the body of the heart. I adjusted my final design based on user feedback, particularly the comment about creating a clear marker to give the end user a “clue” or directions to play the instrument. I also changed my stretch sensor valve idea at the final hour and decided to install tactile buttons with colorful button caps. Personally, I don’t believe the valves were visually pleasing but it worked out so much better than the stretch sensors.

I used Ableton live to map the push buttons to a drum rack where I added 5 sounds – guitar loop on pushbutton, sound FX on pushbutton, clap on pushbutton , bass loop on pushbutton and drum (heartbeat) on a FSR sensor.


Initially, I planned on adding a potentiometer for effects/tempo but I changed my mind.

I created variables for the notes in Arduino and assigned the notes  based on the following  MIDI Note Number Reference Table

Arduino code:

Who is this for and how is it used?

This  project was created to express a connection to the heart through what moves me. It may have formed from  my own needs, but I feel others might be able to heal themselves as well. Holding and creating heartBeats allowed me to  cope with my fears and vulnerabilities. I have hopes that it can potentially be used as a music enabled stress device (stress ball) or even as live performance in a hospital or on stage. Additionally, heartBeats could be used as an educational tool to describe heart functionalities and/or ailments.

Future iterations:

I’d like to build a 3D human sized heart, with vibrant blue and red colored veins (silicon already purchased!)


  • More sensors – buttons and knobs to control functions like effects and tempo.
  • I want to make use of the Pulse Sensor monitor I purchased and never used for this project.
  • Utilize sample packs from Ableton to create a true MIDI controller experience.
  • Make heartBeats wireless.
  • Add LED lights and map to tempo.

I faced many fabrication challenges with heartBeats but everything aligned once I scrapped the stretch sensors for pushbuttons. I had this idea of a musical stretching instrument since the inception of my project and I spent a lot of time trying to develop it not realizing the idea was hindering my creative process.  Sometimes, less is better.


Lastly, I used a wooden case enclosure to conceal all of the wires and Arduino. I wanted to laser cut a traditional heart symbol on the box to add the symbolic expression of the heart as it sheltered and protected heartBeats – my version of the human heart…


Overall, I had a lot of fun working on this project and the goal is to work on new iterations in the near future.

But what do you feel….

User testing results:

User testing was beneficial and extremely insightful; I was able to understand how people reacted to my instrument and the ideas surrounding how they expected it to work; I received critical feedback that I never considered in the development and design stages of heartBeats. I wrote instructions and asked people to read and interact with the interface.  I walked each user through the functionalities and how my musical instrument worked because it wasn’t completely functional. I mapped Ableton to  play a few drums from the stretch sensor  and the FSR sensor worked perfectly but the heart wasn’t connected for  testing.

Several people asked  “How does this make you feel?” and “Why did you choose a heart?”  I never communicated this in detail before because I assumed the symbolism of “heart” was enough – but I was wrong and the feedback provided much clarity for what I need to do next. For the presentation and final blog post, I’ll explain the importance of the heart and music for me, and why I chose to use an anatomical heart over a conventional heart symbol.

A list of the comments from user feedback:

“It’s scary, and too small”

“Try using a shield or structure surrounding the heart to show protection and vulnerability if that’s what you want to express. But you need to communicate what this means to you – this heart, I really like it but explain why you like it”

“Interesting choice”

“This is a dogs toy!”

“I like the idea – nice to touch and its a great musical interface but its a bad model and design. The valves are too close together for stretch sensors, try conductive thread”

“What is the connection?  this seems jarring and that could be a good thing. Try harsh or disturbing sounds for pulling the valves”

“I want to keep squeezing this thing, find a way for something to change when you squeeze this”

“Integrate real heart beat sounds, why the heart? What is the motivation and what does it represent?”

“I love it but add clues in the valves. How will I know the valves are interactive? Show me what I can do by looking at it. I need triggers”

“How are you using the valves that don’t work? What will they do?”

I also asked each person how they felt when they played with heartBeats. Most people enjoyed the idea but it was clear they wanted to understand my personal connection with the interface, users want to understand why I decided to play with a real heart. I get it, I’ll explain soon.

Quant Self Intervention

Link to assignment brief 

I love technology, to do lists, and task management apps. I couldn’t think about life without them.  Imagine a world without Google maps?  What if Google calendar didn’t remind you of your favorite cousins birthday or other important events?

Honestly, I love lists and task tracking apps but I still can’t seem to find consistency. Generally, I switch between  yellow post-it notes and Trello.com. They both seem to “work” for me but each has its own purpose. I like post-it notes for current action items like “do laundry” or “Pick up food for pets” and Trello for long-term goals like “practice guitar posture and hand positioning” or “read two chapters from book x “.   I also have a habit of logging  completed goals from my post it notes/notebook to Trello for visual gratification.

I’ve been saving my post it notes all week; normally I complete a task on paper and immediately throw it away. I also love seeing strikethrough completed items on Trello because I believe it’s highly motivating.  I keep post it notes in every room for motivation and reminders — being able to physically SEE my goals increases the chances of completion.  Here are a few of my notes for the week.

I don’t necessarily feel like post it notes or notebooks are ineffective but they are less desirable in some ways. For one, notebooks are bulky and I tend to forget them at home if I swap bags. Further, notebook tracking is a bit archaic and its easy to fall behind on technological advances if I’m stuck in year 1919 using a black and white composition book for notes. Lastly, there are so many wonderful reasons why task management apps are favorable and preferred over physical note books but I still find my way back to a numbered list, pen and plain sheet of paper. Perhaps I’m tired of technology everywhere. It’s unavoidable and required in almost all that we do, it’s almost like there’s a penalty for not using tech. You miss out on current events, social interactions and experience delays or even complete rejection. I recently had to return items at a cashless store in Manhattan because I left my wallet home and they didn’t accept cash.

Quant Self Intervention

I want to try tracking my habits using digital tools only. No pen, pencil, notepad or notebook. To enforce this, I would put money on the line as a motivator. Companies like Beeminder and Stickk use behavioral economics to keep folks on track. For example Stikk does so by “utilizing the psychological power of loss aversion and accountability to drive behavior change.” One week worth of digital tracking to encourage a life long habit of tracking sans physical tools.

Maybe I’ll start with a smart pen first…


The Road to Fitness – Self Discovery


I decided to keep it simple for my Self Discovery project and focus solely on my workout routine. The goal was to lose at least 2 pounds a week for the duration of the project, documenting my workouts and mood. I was mentally ready on April 1st but, wasn’t physically ready until April 8th.

I created a “workout board” and added post-it notes after every workout. The stars represent days I felt my workouts were really successful, the checks were for mediocre workouts and the confused face represented days I completely dropped the ball. I realized manual input works best for me; I use technology daily and it was really refreshing to use a simple pen and pad to track my daily workouts and emotions – there’s something about having physical access to information – a tangible outcome that has always been highly effective for me. I tracked each workout, sets per workout and repetitions daily in my spiral notepad. I also included my mood before the workouts. In hindsight, it probably would have been useful to track my emotions before and post workout but I believe the data collected was also sufficient and helpful. I transferred the data from the notebook to an excel spreadsheet to create an electronic version of my progress.


I also created a line graph of my mood vs exercise to visualize how my mood affected the productivity of each workout. I discovered when my mood was high the workouts were explosive and productive, when I was cranky or annoyed the workouts weren’t good and I was dissatisfied with my performance. I weighed my emotions on a scale from 1-10, with one as low/unhappy, 5 medium/mediocre,  and 10 as excited and motivated.

My motivation began to drop halfway through the project, mainly because I weighed myself daily and was discouraged when the numbers on the scale didn’t change. The image below represents my major fitness milestones and discoveries. Day 15 was pivotal because I started using the data I collected to focus on my emotions for better workouts.

Music was also instrumental during the four three weeks of training. It was a great motivator and really gave me the push I needed to get through harder sets. I listened to a lot of EDM music during my workouts; I think the upbeat tempo really pushed me to dig deeper and use maximum effort. However, my go-to genre is Hip-Hop, and I listened to one song in particular, during every single workout to increase my motivation. Classical music and Jazz music worked best for my cool down phase and low-intensity workouts. 

One thing to note is I struggled at the beginning with the feeling of not fitting in at the gym because I felt so out of shape. Hence the reason I delayed going to the gym for the first week of tracking.  Eventually, I was about to get past my insecurities and focus on the bigger picture, my desired weight loss.

Overall, I’ve learned a lot about myself and what it takes to ensure I am consistent and focused. The manual tracking “in your face” output works best for me. I lost a total of 6 pounds in 3 weeks! It doesn’t end here, using this information from my fitness journey will greatly help me reach my long-term weight loss goals. The next step is to incorporate better eating habits that will support well-balanced physical health.

Road to Fitness Slide show

Heartbreaks and 808’s

This week didn’t go as planned at all. I purchased a few new props to install the Teensy (older prototype destroyed) but continued to run into issues securing the conductive rubber cord stretch sensors. The stretch sensor became my focal point of interest for this project. During my idea and project brainstorming phase, I remembered reading The Importance of Parameter Mapping in Electronic Instrument Design, by Andy Hunt in week 5 or 6 in class. This was important to me because when Hunt conducted multiple user tests on musical instruments, he found that users were more connected and engaged when energy was needed or required to operate an instrument. The users reported an overall better response and interactive experience. This prompted me to consider how using energy motivates me when I use a device/instrument and the core influence in how I chose to build my project. It made sense to design a creative tool that encourages a continuous input of energy. Music means a lot to me, and I decided to use a heart because it is a universal sign of love. Further, the heart also represents a significant life changing event for my family and I wanted express the importance of life and its symbolism using an anatomical heart.

There are three valves used —  each play a single instrument mapped in Ableton Live. The conductive rubber cord connects to each valve and an instrument starts on pull in a continuous loop. Valve one controls the Drums, valve two the Bass and valve three controls the sound effects. I attached an FSR sensor in the middle of the heart and it is used to start the melody when physical pressure is detected. This completes the beat, hence the name of the project, “heartBeats”. I got risky and added a pulse sensor I purchased during the early stages of my project. The pulse sensor will use the end users beats per minute  (BPM) to control the tempo of the music.  Ultimately, I decided to test push buttons as an alternative for the valves but I’m completely dissatisfied with this option and plan to revert back to the conductive rubber sensors.





  • The conductive cords aren’t secure at all. They continue to pop out of the jumper wires and it makes it extremely difficult to detect a reading with even the slightest pull.

  • I struggle with fabrication but understanding this now is actually beneficial because I can use this as a motivator to make at least one beginners fabrication class priority!
  • Mapping MIDI instruments were challenging. I had to manually map each drum pack as a note in Arduino using the drum rack pad via Ableton.

What heartBeats sounds like now:


What I plan to figure out before the final presentation:

  • How to make the conductive cords secure!
  • heartBeats playing drums, bass, sound effects, and melodies harmoniously.
  • Adding multiple clips (instruments/sounds) for each valve.
  • Pairing pulse monitor (human BPM) with tempo.

To be truthful, I produce work…  WEEKLY. My error honestly has been not thoroughly documenting my failures which are small victories. Each week, although frustrating, brings me closer to my end goal and ultimately what I envisioned from the beginning; a functional and engaging instrument that is symbolic to me and encourages the use of  ENERGY!

Heart Project

This week I ran into a lot of challenges with my conductive rubber cord stretch sensors. I used a heart plush prototype to test the resistance of an FSR sensor and hot glue/cyanoacrylate glue to mend the rubber to the fabric “valves”. Initially, this worked well but the jumper cables began to snap with medium force.




The FSR sensor will  start the melody mapped from Ableton Live. I created a scene with several tracks. Each track has 4 different clips.

FSR Sensor:  Melody
Valve 1: Drums
Valve 2: Bass
Valve 3: Sound Effects
Valve 4: Vocals

End user will squeeze the heart to start the melody (loop)
User will pull valve one for  drum. Drum loops until the user pulls valve one  again to select a different drum pattern. This occurs for each valve until a cohesive beat is created.

Ultimately, I’d like to use silicone to sculpt an anatomical heart but its been difficult searching for a realistic (large) heart mold online.


LALA LAB Idea Poster for heartBeats. Valve vessel music structure

Data Selfie App – Snow Day

Drawing Connections

I compiled a bunch of selfies during the week using Joey’s selfie app starter code. In the    beginning, it was fairly simple, and I eagerly took many selfies, as planned daily. However, after the third day, I either totally forgot or the task became monotonous. I don’t take selfies regularly so I can’t say I had much fun with this one. Until Monday, March 4th — New York City snow day; NYC public schools were closed for the day along with universities and many businesses.

Side Note:

This is a picture of NYC “snow days” when I attended public school. Seriously.

Image result for nyc blizzard 1996

I decided to snap pictures throughout the day, when my dog barked but that was REALLY excessive because Magic barks every 30 seconds. I’ve been thinking about the gym lately and it’s been on my to-do list so I decided to take a selfie every time I thought about anything related to the gym like going to the gym, food plans to compliment my workout regimen, my workout routines etc. I collected 50 pictures during the day – and of course I needed to spice the selfies up because my face in every picture isn’t that exciting.

I also spent a lot of time working on the API Review and Simple Express API Demo which was pretty exciting and challenging. I did pretty well but ran into trouble making a put request.

I tried customizing my photo app a bit a came up with a few different shots. I also removed the geo location because its pretty accurate and that’s concerning once its shared publicly.








At the end of it all, I thought about the main question from the readings last week, “What are we going to do with all this data?”I know what I did, I deleted it.

Interaction I

I’ve been stuck for some time trying to figure out exactly what I want out of this project. What should it look like? How does it feel? How long will it take to build? I read Interaction Design Sketchbook by Bill Verplank for clarity and I realized I needed to shift  my thinking. I’m not a designer, so when I think in that capacity I over think  and spend a significant amount of time, wasting time. I’m a thinker, a creative – which means  my safe space is outside of the box often and at times, there isn’t even a box!

“Questions of Interaction Design” Bill Verplank


I’m approaching this project from a different perspective, with focus on “How do you DO?, How do you FEEL? and How do you know?” Placing emphasis on how  it works and less about aesthetics at this stage.

How do you DO?– I want buttons for full control and independence. The user should effortlessly press and use on command, without thought or much complexity.

How do you FEEL? How does this device communicate with the end-user. I’d like to evoke emotions in real-time. If the end-user is sad, this system should reflect sadness. Emotion Pushbutton/Sensor (How do you DO) trigger minor or major scales. For example, a user is happy – the sensor detects happiness and renders one of the 12 major scales:

Happy = output C Major (C, B, E, F, G, A, B, C)

How do you KNOW? I’d like a path based system (without steps). I want this experience to be an ongoing process;  actionable, experimental, expressive and free.  Move at your own pace and ability.

7-axis dimension space diagram

Priority features: Ease of use, mobility and independence.

Target audience. Open




My Data Feelings

ASSIGNMENT 3 (DUE: WEEK 04, 25 FEB 2019)

For this weeks assignment, I decided to build my data feelings app  around my daily goals. I love to do lists and task management apps. Lists allow me to hold myself accountable and I also enjoy the feeling of completing a goal and marking it done. In Making Sense of Data, the author mentioned “cultivating a habit” as one of the five common styles or purposes for self-tracking. Although habit tracking techniques are more about forming habits that support a desired outcome, I believe to do lists also relate (indirectly )to developing habits and/or identifying motivators. I create to do lists with the intention of completing a task (desired outcome) and I’m highly motivated when items are closed…  Habit tracking, yes?!

I followed the extremely helpful “how to video” Joey emailed last week and updated the data model with my own parameters using the default visuals. I ran into trouble modifying the event listener for a new range; the example code was identical but I believe I saved the modified code outside of a loop somewhere in another file. I figured things out after several hours and a quick  suggestion from Joey.

Update: I decided to track my emotions during this homework assignment because I experienced a range of different feelings while troubleshooting errors and breaking things along the way. The final output is a generative data visualization of my emotions  while working on assignment #3. Interestingly enough, I noticed similarities in certain shapes when I adjusted the range for “frustrated” vs “happy”.