Rest of You final proposal: Breathe

Breathing is body activity that can occur unconsciously or consciously. Without thought, we breathe automatically, but with practice, we can learn to breathe more effectively. By breathing properly, we can better manage stress and stress-related conditions that are not advantageous to modern life.

My final project proposal for Rest of You is a light sculpture that aims to curb stress by encouraging deeper, controlled breathing by providing the user with visual feedback. Here’s the initial sketch:

The light sculpture is controlled by a breathing sensor, comprised of a piece of stretchy conductive material attached to a strap of non-stretchy material that is worn around the ribcage. As the user inhales, their ribcage expands, stretching the sensor and increasing its resistance. The increase in resistance causes the LEDs on the sculpture to turn on, one by one, from the bottom to the top of the sculpture. As the user exhales, the LEDs turn off, one by one, from top to bottom. As the user continues to breathe, the sculpture reflects their breaths. If the user fails to breathe deeply, the sculpture won’t fully turn on. It is my hope that the user will want the sculpture to fully light up, and therefore breathe deeply to make this happen.

Research indicates that curbing the stress response has the following positive effects:

  • Reduces stress hormone production
  • Balances O2 and CO2 in the blood
  • Lowers blood pressure and heart rate
  • Increases physical energy
  • Promotes calm and wellbeing
  • Reduces lactic acid build-up in muscle tissue
  • Improves immune system functionality

My goal for the final is to get the breathing sensor and light sculpture up and running. Once these parts are complete, the next step will be to make it wireless. I plan to do this with XBees.

Mobile Me(dia) Final Proposal

There are so many fun things that I want to do, that I “sort of” plan to do in the future, but I never get around to doing many of these things. Going to the Cloisters, for example. I keep meaning to do it, but I never get around to it.

These aren’t the kinds of activities that belong in my Tasks or To Do list. These are the kinds of things that I can do spontaneously when I have some time available.

To this end, I’m planning to make a mobile app for the Mobile Me(dia) final that allows me to enter these types of activities and the time needed to do them. When I have some free time available, I can consult this app, input the amount of time I have and allow the phone to suggest what I can do with the time.

Here’s the draft wireframe.


Thesis Prep: Optical Devices

Continuing my exploration of the themes of optics and eyesight, I made some optical devices of my own.

I popped the lenses out of an old pair of sunglasses and got to work with some construction paper and thread to make seven designs to affix to the glasses in place of the lenses. I tried wearing the glasses and noted my observations, and gave the most interesting ones to some friends who generously volunteered as test subjects.

Sketches of the experiment


The most interesting designs were the one with multiple small polka dots (#4), which created an odd sense of depth, an interesting blur effect and made the wearer more aware of their eyes’ focus; the one with a single larger dot on each eye (#3), which gave the wearer peripheral vision only; and the one that was all blacked out except for three small holes on each eye, which blacked out most of the field of vision, forced the user to move their head to see, and they were only privy to viewing three small areas within that field of vision, without being able to see what was between them.

Below are images from the experiment. Next step might be to convey what the scene looks like to the person wearing the glasses.

Cabinets of Wonder: Museum Websites

I did a quick survey of two museum websites for Cabinets of Wonder. My goal was to figure out how easy it is to access basic info on the museum (directions, hours of operation, address), and also to find additional parts of the website that I found surprising/interesting.

The Jewish Museum

Address on homepage, 1 click for hours, 2 clicks for directions.

The Jewish Museum website features an online exhibitions section of some of the Museum’s previous exhibitions. Some of the online exhibitions have interactive features. There is an interactive Flash game in the William Steig online exhibition inspired by a game called “Five Lines” that William Steig’s daughter Maggie recalled playing with her father. Five Lines provides users with five random black lines on a white background and invites them to make the lines into a face by adding their own lines. In another online exhibition, there’s Curious George timeline that visitors can virtually cycle on by pushing a bike along the timeline. Users can click items along the timeline to access works from that exhibition.

I also learned that the Jewish Museum has a international travel program that offers members “unique opportunities to learn about art and Jewish culture in communities around the world.”


Address on homepage, 2 clicks for hours, 2 clicks for directions.

MoMA’s site focuses on accessibility for everyone. One of the first things I came across was the Museum’s MeetMe program, dedicated to making art accessible to people with Alzheimers/dementia.

MoMA’s focus on education and research only became apparent to me on the website. In the Learn section, I learned that MoMA offers lecture courses and studio art courses. There are daytime and evening courses, in addition to online courses that can be completed on the user’s own time. There’s a research section on the MoMA site with information on accessing the museum library, a circulating video library, and several study centers, open by appointment, that offer access to specialized research materials.

Android SMS app

I’ve been getting cosy with Java, Eclipse and the Android development platform in recent days. After making the Hello World application, I played around with the xml file where the Android layouts reside and made some buttons (with different brightly colored text on each!) that change the screen color when clicked on.

I was glad to learn of the existence of Android intents, which enables applications to pass requests along to other apps to handle tasks. We can leverage intents to get other applications to send emails, SMS, use the camera, etc. as part of our app without writing a new and separate client to do so.

I used an SMS intent to get my app, InstantSMStoFriends, to send pre-written SMS messages to my friends when I click on their names.

Here's the landing page for InstantSMStoFriends. There are four buttons. The user clicks on any of the four buttons to send a text message.

SMS intent has been launched! Here's the screen that appears after I click the "Text Amy" button.

In doing this, I also learned how to take these awesome Android screenshots using DDMS in Eclipse!

Exploratory projects

To begin my thesis explorations, I decided to focus on why I feel that eyesight and visual perception are relevant to me.

I did a 20-minute sketch of a personal story.

When I was about seven years old, I discovered (to my surprise) that I needed glasses.

Then, I sketched my proposed plan to go outside and try and capture the world a little differently than I might normally do.


What can I do in two hours?

After drawing this, I was a little scared to go outside without the perfect vision afforded by contact lenses. But I was wearing my glasses, so I'd be fine.

It was Halloween – a chaotic evening in the Village. My goal was to go outside wearing glasses, and take them off at regular intervals to see what I could/couldn’t see – and then take some pictures that might capture the feeling of having less than perfect vision.

My photos of Halloween are below. Here are a couple of observations from the exercise:

  • I can everything perfectly in the camera’s LCD display when I hold it in front of my face.
  • Lights look awesome when you are near-sighted, but the huge blurs they create make it really difficult to see anything else.
  • I’m more sensitive to sound when I can’t see very well.
  • It’s terrifying to walk down the street unable to see where you’re going. Especially on Halloween amidst a merry crowd of costumed revelers.



Thesis prep, Step 1, Take 3

How does eyesight affect visual perception? That question, however obscure at this point, is my starting point for thesis exploration.

I’ve made a couple of attempts at expanding upon ideas that I wasn’t very into, and toyed around with others. Productivity (in the broad sense) and self-marketing/censoring through images (hello, Facebook profile pics) have both ended up in the unused ideas pile. Now I’ve come up with something I think I can get behind.

Beginning with the question, “How Does Eyesight Affect Visual Perception?” I grabbed my markers and explored the question by jotting down word associations along with proposed forms, materials, affects/emotions, verbs, colors, motivations, proposed audiences and contexts for the thesis piece.

This overarching topic is way too expansive, so I decided upon two 20-minute projects and one 2-hour project to help me explore the idea, which I’ll document in my next post.