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.