(Future of Health) Interview With GeekPhysical

PSFK talks to the creators of the Cold feet Interactive Bouquet about biometrics and technology.

PSFK Future of Health

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As part of our work with UNICEF, PSFK interviewed the couple behind GeekPhysical,who use technology to create interactive experiences, installations, happenings, or playful rendezvous. Combining interaction design and experience design with engineering they invent incredibly memorable experiences.They give us the details about their project Cold Feet, an interactive wedding bouquet that shows at a glance, if the bride is excited or calm.

Tell us about the Cold feet Interactive Bouquet and any developments since its creation.

Project “Cold Feet” the Interactive Wedding Bouquet was designed by GeekPhysical to show, at a glance, if the bride is nervous or calm. The wedding is a classical situation where there is much speculation about if the bride is stressed or calm, or if either party (bride or groom) will ‘go through with it’. We decided to create a way to see instantly, if the bride is nervous or calm. The bouquet of flowers is interlaced with fiber optics, which glow blue when the bride is calm and white when the bride is nervous. Her emotions register instantly and are shown to all, through the bouquet. The bouquet is made of three main elements, A ring that the bride wears measures her Galvanic Skin Response, or her emotional state. This information is transmitted via a wire to the base of the bouquet, where the electronics are hidden, and light up the fiber optics that are interwoven into the flower bouquet.

This project arose from a series of explorations of biometrics. Initially, the Critical Corset was created, the corset tightened when the wearer’s heart rate went up to indicate attraction. We realized quickly that this wasn’t sufficient to determine the wearer’s state of attraction to another person, a rise in heart rate could mean many things. We expanded the project to include temperature and breath and created a wireless system that people could wear around a bar, where their biosignals would be projected on the bar’s walls for all to see. This was fun but didn’t give us the in-depth information we were seeking. Finally, we started to play with Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) and made our own GSR sensors. We combined this with heart rate (temperature and breath were not great indicators of changes in a person’s state, the response time was too slow and unpredictable) and found that we had an effective system to instantly see a change in a person’s state based on both their emotional (nervous/excited or calm/neutral) and their heart rate.

Since the Cold Feet Interactive Bouquet, we have begun to explore what biometrics can tell us about taste sensation and cooking. We are working with a chef, trying various experiments to see what, if any, reactions we can get from Michelin graded food. The goal is to create methods for improving taste experience and possibly expanding also to environmental experience in a restaurant. While this is a new venture, our main focus remains: Biometric Social Interaction (BSI). We have created the BSI system for Festival della Creativita in Florence, Italy in 2009 and for Thoughtmade, Malmo, Sweden in May 2010. This is a four-person system, where people sit around a projection, wearing GSR and heart rate sensors. Participants also wear glasses equipped with infrared to determine when eye contact is made. Once a participant is sitting down, within seconds their heart rate and GSR is displayed on the projection for all to see. They can send their biosignals to the other participants by making eye contact. Our goal is to create opportunities for social interaction and for people to base their social interaction and evaluation of each other not on the clothes they wear or the pick up lines, they have but rather on their biometrics, to both learn about their own bodies, and how they interact with others.

We’re talking today because we want to understand trends at the intersection of health and technology. How your project is related with these concepts?

It’s technology that monitors human functions. In industrial settings, medical institutions use biometrics for every aspect of their work, from the humble but necessary thermometer to advanced brain scanning and monitoring equipment. However, healthy non-medical experts use biometrics widely everyday: people monitor their runs, how far they go, how fast they go, what their heart rate is during their run. The trend is increasingly that people are interested in self monitoring; there is an iphone app for monitoring sleep patterns, there are endless heart rate monitors on the market; diabetics can monitor their real-time glucose levels, and people enjoy doing it, it becomes a fascination for them.

New patterns in medicine could also arise from the general public’s interest in self-monitoring. As more and more people self-monitor and use social networking and statistics tracking to share their information, the medical field will be able to follow, noting patterns, seeing earlier when signs of disease or problems are prominent, or when perhaps one group of people is doing something right, and changing health for the better. Essentially, it becomes large scale medical surveys; thousands rather than hundreds, millions rather than thousands, done voluntarily and with enthusiasm by people who are interested for their own reasons to monitor themselves.

As a focus to the project – we are looking to aid UNICEF and likeminded organizations with new ideas. UNICEF’s work involves remote healthworkers. How could your project or a similar one be developed to support such work?

We think it could be interesting to focus on the Galvanic Skin Response of the health workers, making healthworkers aware of their stress levels. We noticed on the UNICEF site an article by Penelope Curling, where she discusses how workers should notice their psychological responses to stress. We think it could also be vital to have healthworkers aware of their stress levels without having to think about it or analyze themselves. Similar to radiation meters worn by people working near radiation, the worker there cannot notice if there is radiation without wearing the meter and being alerted to radiation levels being too high. The health care worker would be alerted when their stress levels are too high or reaching dangerous levels.

Further it could be more useful if UNICEF knew where people were the most stressed or when. Maybe the beginning of their day trying to assess a lot of patients or a crisis is the most stressful; or it could be where: perhaps it’s a particular area when they are in the field that is the most stressful for them, or a combination of when and where. It would be immensely helpful to UNICEF to identify the when and where of the most stressful places and times so they could concentrate on improving processes in those times or areas.

GeekPhysical could create such a meter, in fact, the Cold Feet Interactive Bouquet functions as exactly that, blue is relaxed, white is stressed – we knew in a fun situation (our wedding) when we were stressed or not. Imagine if this could be a small wearable part of clothing that glows, or vibrates, or hums when the healthworker is stressed, it could easily be incorporated into their everyday clothing and routine, and help save many healthworkers from becoming stressed, burned out and in need of replacement.

Geek Physical

Over the next few weeks, PSFK is running a trends research and innovation project in association with UNICEF. We will be researching (with your help) the development of key trends that impact health and wellbeing and then using our findings to develop with partners concepts that UNICEF and likeminded organizations could consider deploying across the world.

Find out more here: PSFK presents the Future Of Health in association with UNICEF

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