Rhythm Listener

Uncategorized — rbrill @ 12:27 am

Password: mti


This project is one part research tool, one part affective computing device. It has two goals. The first is to explore the relationship between computer and physiological excitement. The second is to be able to manipulate excitement at will.

All too often, I find it hard to transition to other activities after using my computer. This is especially true late at night, when my will to resist the Internet’s temptations is at its lowest. Our use of the internet often leads us into compulsive loops, in which the appeal of small hits of dopamine cause us to act quickly and without thought.

I wanted to build a tool that would help users quantify the impact that different computer-based activities have on their body and affect. My hope is that by gathering data on this activity computer users can form healthier habits.

Heart rate is a good and commonly used proxy for physiological excitement. Studies also show a correlation between steadier of heart rates and the ability to regulate of behavior. For these reasons, I chose to use heart rate data to power my project and christened it “Rhythm Listener.”

Inspiration/Related Work

There exists a small body of scholarly work on the effect of music on heart rate, examples of which I have listed below. A number of student projects have translated heart rate into musical output, but none that I found have used music to affect heart rate in such a controlled manner.


  1. Heart Rate Variability and likelihood to engage in Addictive Behavior:
  2. kb.osu.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/1811/60413/LindsayCannon_HonorsThesis.pdf?sequence=1
  3. Pitch > Rhythm in influencing emotions: www.jstor.org/stable/40285907
  4. Effects of music on physiological arousal: www.theaudioprof.com/pubs/2007_1.pdf
  5. Cardiovascular responses to music tempo during steady-state exercise: www.asep.org/asep/asep/Birnbaum%2012(1)50-56.doc
  6. Music, heart rate and the medical field: www.emerginginvestigators.org/2013/04/the-effect-of-music-on-heart-rate/



Rhythm Listener consists of an Easy Pulse v1.01 heart rate sensor attached to a computer mouse on one end and to an Arduino microcontroller on the other. Heart rate data is sent to one of Arduino’s Analog In pins. Voltage output to the Arduino varies according to the relative thickness of the blood in the finger being read.









Arduino has a serial connection to the user’s computer using a USB cable. I enclosed the Arduino and heart rate signal processing chip inside a plastic case. The wire to the reader and the USB to the computer both come out of this case, resulting in a look like that of a standard computer mouse (albeit one with a large adapter).


The signal from the Arduino is routed to a Max Patch using standard Firmata protocol. I use “Maxuino” to accept the serial output from the Arduino and process it in Max. The result is sent to a slider, which outputs a value between 0.00 and 1.00 according to the heart rate. I take this data and route it to a graph of the raw heart rate data and to a sub-patch I built that calculates beats per minute from the time between peak values. I display both the raw data and the BPM over time in graphs for the user to easily visualize.

When the user presses a Max button, a conditional is triggered that reads their current heart rates and plays a song segment with a similar BPM. I can then adjust the speed of the song up or down according to preset preferences.

Lessons Learned

As happened throughout this course, I taught myself a new programming language in the process of doing this project. One of my biggest struggles was getting a basic understanding of Max and the specific objects I needed to use for this project. It is now hard to believe that I ever struggled with this, but the initial learning curve was steep. Once I had the lay of the land I found Max to be a joy to work in.

Getting the serial connection between the Arduino and Max working was and still is the biggest challenge of this project. I tried three different methods (Max2Arduino, Serial OSC and finally Maxuino) before getting Maxuino to work.

Unfortunately, this serial connection stopped working for unknown reasons right before our show at Assemble. This was especially troubling because I had everything running 40 minutes earlier, and changed nothing but my location in that time. I have not been able to fix it, nor has anyone else who I have asked for help from.

Fortunately, I had a backup project that I was able to show at the live demonstration.

The video above is how the program would have worked had the serial connection not failed.

Compulsion Loops and the Digital Age: www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/07/exploiting-the-neuroscience-of-internet-addiction/259820/?single_page=true
EasyPulse sensor website: www.emerginginvestigators.org/2013/04/the-effect-of-music-on-heart-rate/

Sensate – Concept Video

Uncategorized — Tags: — tdoyle @ 9:41 am

Sensate – Concept Video from Tommy Doyle on Vimeo.

“Simplified” Concept Video

Uncategorized — amyfried @ 8:15 am

Simplified Concept Video from Amy Friedman on Vimeo.


Uncategorized — priyaganadas @ 7:53 am

Live Time Lapse Video

Uncategorized — jk @ 12:46 am

While a fellow at the artist residency Mildred’s Lane I documented their integration of art and life through time lapse photography. These videos are on display at the Museum of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago this Fall as part of a larger exploration of Mildred’s Lane’s philosophy.
I was fascinated with the way that time lapse photography could give meaning to mundane activities and change how we understand these activities.
In general the cleaning of Carnegie Mellon is something that happens at night. The custodians come in the middle of night and faculty and students rarely see or know the people that keep the school going. They’re taken for granted.
Time lapse photography can make these activities  beautiful while projected video can make these activities visible.
I will be creating Raspberry Pi cameras that will collect time lapse footage, which is then edited, and and projected in a highly visible location on campus.


Live Time Lapse 2

Uncategorized — jk @ 4:41 am

For the second iteration of my Live Time Lapse prototype I have independently developed four aspects of this project:

1, Camera Operation

2, Uploading Photos

3, Creating Video

4, Mobile App

I have approached this project with the premise that other people know how to do all the above better than I could; I saw my job as researching what others had done. I identified requirements for each individual aspect of my project and identified programs and related hardware that would fulfill these requirements.

1, Camera Operations:

I wanted a camera that was cheap and easily configurable with good image quality. A Raspberry Pi Coupled with a RaspiCam fulfilled these requirements. The 5 MegaPixels images are fine for time lapse and you can adjust the camera settings and there’s a lot of code already written for these cameras.  The most interesting code I found was from James Welling of fotosyn, a photo developer which has also created a variety of interesting apps. There’s a great blog post about the timelapse camera he developed and created. I used this code to initiate my time lapse sequence with the following code:

This code can be downloaded here.

2, Uploading Photos

I used an amazing piece of code called Dropbox Uploader on the Raspberry Pi to upload images to Dropbox. This piece of code took a bit to actually figure out how to use given my limited knowledge of Python, but eventually I was able to get it to work.  One instructable post really helped with this.  As well another post pointed me in the right direction towards understanding how to create a python script to add to the above mentioned raspiLapseCam script.

Here’s the code to make the Dropbox Uploader work.

This piece of the code indicates the director whose images are uploaded

This piece below indicates the directory which is created in the App portion of your Dropbox folder (which you create when installing Dropbox Uploader on your Raspberry Pi).

In addition there is another piece of code I am trying to get to use. On the Dropbox Uploader Git Hub instructions under Optional Parameters, Andrea Fabrizi (the developer) indicates that you can use the “-s” to not upload images which already exist in the Dropbox. I don’t know how to use that piece of code yet. If anyone knows, that would be great!

3, Creating Video

I identified MAXmsp/Jitter as a program I had some familiarity with, which also had a lot of documentation, and which someone had already created a “patch” for that I could use. I found this person whose name is Gian Pablo Villamil. The time lapse looping is now working, but it is not directed to the correct Dropbox folder. This should be a simple fix.

What won’t be as simple is perhaps translating this patch to Pure Data so it can work directly on a Raspberry Pi.

4, Mobile App

Raspberry Pi’s are endlessly configurable, but their user interface is terrible. It would be awesome to operate a camera and timelapse directly from a mobile app. This is something that forosyn is working on. I was able to install their BerryCam Express and get it to work from my iPhone. You can use their BerryCam app to take pictures remotely from your phone. They are also promising timelapse functionality, which would be nice.   I found their app worked really well.

The Mobile App isn’t necessary for my final project, but it is exciting to experiment with.

Here’s a video:  vimeo.com/109430407

Sonification of Astronomical Data

Uncategorized — priyaganadas @ 9:29 pm

I have been going through different types of astronomical datasets lately. One of the interesting directions is to sonify astronomical data. This is what I have decided to pursue. Following project taken in deep space field data from Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope over four years. Based on brightness, duration, distance from earth of supernovae that were captured, piano notes are played to create a sonata.

Internet radio station, CRaTER, plays live cosmic ray count as music

read more about CRaTER

Datasets from NASA

Large Hadron Collider (LHC) sounds

Piezo Sensor Prototype

Uncategorized — jk @ 12:17 am

Recently I completed a collaboration with Dakotah Konicek for the Tough Art Artist Residency at The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. In conjunction with this project, for the MTI class I attempted to make a Piezo sensor that could be used to both sense sound and activate a pump. This video documents this project, in part, as well as the Piezo microphones I built for this project and my attempt at building an amplifier that could be input into an Arduino sensor and output as sound.



Above is the final piece at The Children’s Museum.


Here’s excellent advice on building Piezo Preamps on Alex Rice’s website.

Sound Studies (Precedent Analysis)

Uncategorized — jk @ 12:05 am

Over the past couple of years I’ve become more and more interested in sound and what sound can do. It’s taken me a while to come around to sound, but the first time I really remember being struck by sound was at a noise music concert that a friend of mine put on in which, with gleeful transgression a group of punks blew away Burnside Avenue in Portland, Oregon on a Saturday afternoon. Incidentally, the orchestrator of that event has recently started a deconstructionist film blog Talking at The Movies with the tagline: “Spoiler Alert: Meaning is an Artifact of Creation.”

Three other experiences with sound include experiencing “The Forty Part Motet (A reworking of “Spem in Alium” by Thomas Tallis 1573)” by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller at The Cloisters in Manhattan.  This piece was truly transforming. You would walk around this amazing chapel which was transported from Spain and could here each individual voice on each individual speaker. It really got you to think about sound and I really believe that sound is something we have difficulty focusing on. This allowed a modern audience to focus on Thomas Tallis’ truly amazing composition.


Recently I’ve become fascinated with John Luther Adam’s compositions such as Inuksuit, which incorporate the avant-garde musical tradition of early 20th century percussion oriented composition with Stockhausen’s radical site specific “Helicopter String Quartet.” John Luther Adams, however, combines the radicalness of these gestures with truly relatable sounds such as those, in the case of Inuksuit, of the arctic. He studies these sounds and reinterprets them for orchestra, again, so we can here them again.


Composer Nico Muhly has done the same thing with the traditional folk song “Oh, The Wind and Rain.” He has essentially, deconstructed this song into separate parts and then over the course of a three part composition (one of which is in the video above) this song is rebuilt. More about this song and this composition can be found on Nico Muhly’s website.

The commonality I have found between these compositions is the way sound is used to call attention to a composition or sound that already exists that we pass over and don’t really hear.


“Knock” by Yeliz Karadayi and Epic Jefferson

Uncategorized — ygk @ 7:44 am

Knock is a more intimate way to connect with specific people on campus. Use it to signal for help, that you’re heading over, or just to drop in on a friend.

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