For an interesting project, I decided to set up a heartrate monitor that would track and reveal the heartrate of someone speaking in front of the class. Public speaking is one of the most common fears. Often times it’s not really a fear in the sense of anticipated fear, but rather something that strikes involuntarily the moment one senses all the eyes staring, and the contrast of silence versus his/her own voice. Once the heartrate increases to above average rates, thoughts begin to blur.
In class, Inessah and I realized we had a similar interest in revealing this moment of anxiety and decided to work on this project together. We believe that the act of totally revealing the embarrassingly fast heartrate, and therefore exposing our vulnerability, is a way of facing our fear. Sometimes the only way to get past a fear is to go right through it, no? We want to pursue this in the hopes that this will help us get over presenting in front of large groups.
Here is our complete idea for the output of the final project… As we are sitting in front of the class, presenting our assignment, we are going to project our slides/website that we are reading from. As our heartrate begins to increase, our slides will blur to the point of becoming non-legible. In this way, we are hoping to create a visual of what is actually going on in our mind as we get increasingly nervous. Our thoughts blur. Ultimately, this project can become a stand-alone website that is constantly revealing our heartrate in this symbolic way, for the world to see, as we go about our day wearing a heart sensor.
For initial testing, I have been using my heartrate sensor from last year’s project. It’s the Polar CHR handheld sensor board from Sean Mongomery’s site. After a few issues with code (I wasn’t properly using the coma during the serial communication between Arduino and Processing, as well as some problems with contact/detecting my heartrate from the sensor itself), I managed to get a chart displaying heartrate. However, it is finicky. It doesn’t detect every single beat so the chart looks a bit inconsistent. If we want to measure heart rate over time, this will be an issue.
Because of the inconsistencies and because we will need our project to be ultimately wireless, Inessah and I are deciding to switch to a Polar strap sensor. We are in the process of getting hold of one, and figuring out the setup for that.