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.