heartBEAT – final project Minh-Chau Doan

Titled “heartBEAT,” my final project shows the importance of life and love through an interactive heart made from flowers.

This is the rough script I used for the documentation video (some parts now edited out):

For my final project I decided to tie in the theme of life and love with the aesthetics of flowers to create my artwork titled heartBEAT. I started off with the idea that a pulse sensor could create a beating heart made out of flowers. To get this to work, i used maxuino to read the analog data from the sensor. This is the first patch I created that translated those numbers to a meter to better visualize the heartbeat. I then prototyped a way to move the flowers. Since I was borrowing them I had to make sure that the servos were not permanently altered so I couldn’t directly hot glue them. Instead I used string and cardboard to have the servo rotate the flower. Access to the pulse sensor was limited since I was sharing it with another group so I replaced the input with a flex sensor since they both gave similar input data. Originally I was going to make origami flowers but then I realized how much work and time just folding them would take so I decided to go with fake flowers from the dollar store. However, these flowers came with additional weight and less mobility than the origami one so the string method stopped working. Instead I hotglued the bottom of the flowers to cardboard then taped the cardboard to the servo. To secure and align the servos, I put in lines of cardboard and taped the servos to it. Originally I had nine servos. However when I tested them, the servos would take too much power and crash the arduino within seconds. I changed the set up so that only two servos would spin at a time and that the flowers would beat in a wave instead from the top row to the bottom then back to the top and so on. The servos also take time to rotate and I really didn’t want to risk the arduino crashing so I had them beat every third beat instead. However the servos were still taking too much power so they sent noise to the pulse data and it was more of the servos triggering one another than ones heartbeat triggering them. I decided to fix this later and moved on to adding the beat part of heart beat.  I sampled the chords from one of my favorite love songs day 1 by honne and synced it to the heartbeat sensor. With all the work so far, it really only tied in life to the metaphor. But I really wanted to include love so I added a makey makey and conductive thread so that if you touched certain parts of the artwork it would trigger a special sample of the song that I liked. Adding this final touch, I called it a day instead of testing all the pieces together. During the class demo, the servos refused to work now that my laptop had to power servos a pulse sensor and a makey makey. A classmate suggested adding more power by cutting an extra iPhone charging cable. So I cut up an extra cable and soldered it then plugged it in as the ground and 5V for the servos. However this ended up bugging out the flowers and suddenly I ran into the power of potentially too much power. It ended up fixing itself when I restarted my laptop to get the sound component to work again. Most of the work went into creating the art piece and trouble testing the servos for the most part. The patch itself is really simple since maxuino does basically everything for you and hands you easy values to work with. The pulse sensor data is just analog float values. From the pulse sensor data, I got the max and min and scaled it accordingly so that when it went past 80 percent of the range, that would signify a pulse which set off a bang. Each bang set off the music beat. every other bang would turn the motors. One problem I ran into was that I had the bang just go through a counter for position and a counter for servo pin. However that meant that when it went back to some pins, the position would remain the same so the servo would not move. To fix this, I had each motor pin keep its own position value instead of all motor pins sharing the same position variable. This was the final fix to my art piece.

This ended up being the final wiring for the project. It’s rather messy but it works.

Finally here is the completed artwork. For the artwork to work, one must supply a heartbeat which triggers the flowers motion and the music beat. Likewise in life, one must provide the bare minimum to sustain ones heartbeat and thus keep living. However to add beauty to the piece which is the additionally music elements from the makey makey, you need to love the flowers by touching and thus caring for them. You need to care for life and given attention and love to those around you in order to enhance your life and make it more enjoyable. There’s a bit of irony to this project because I worked on it so much that I failed to take care of my own self and got very sick. Thus in giving life to this project I was taking away my own life in a sense. However, after the demonstration, I was able to relax and take my time to put together the final elements. In allowing myself to rest I healed surprisingly quickly. Ultimately, I’m really proud of myself because I was able to accomplish everything that I set off wanting to do despite knowing close to nothing besides the example blink program on arduino. However I do wish that I took more time taking care of myself and truly living out the metaphor of my art piece instead of learning it the hard way.

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