Physical Computing Project 1: Sensors and LEDs

Although I’m in the very beginnings of my thesis research, my interests are currently centralized around interactive technology, meditation, and breath. Last spring, I started these biofeedback meditation training sessions offered on campus by Student Counseling Services to help learn how to better manage my stress. These sessions guided me through various breathing exercises to help reach a relaxed state of awareness.

For my first project for Physical Computing, I envisioned a large lighting sculpture of a lotus flower, which symbolizes enlightenment, divinity, fertility, wealth, and knowledge. The lights would help guide the breath during meditation.


I imagine the lights starting from the center and extending outwards during an inhalation, and contracting inwards during an exhalation.

To help guide the breath, there would be pre-determined lighting (dictating the blue channel of the LED). The user’s breath would influence the lighting sculpture as well (dictating the red channel of the LED).  When the user’s breath matches the pre-determined timing, the resulting LED color would be purple.

I imagine the lotus frame to be made out of wood and the petals out of rice paper. The petals would be backlit by the RGB LEDs.

To measure the breath, I used an stretch sensor band wrapped around the abdomen. When the user inhales, the abdomen would rise, causing the band would stretch, increasing the resistance. Exhaling would cause the abdomen (and the band) to contract, decreasing the resistance. I inserted the output voltage of a voltage divider circuit incorporating the sensor to one of the analog inputs of my Arduino’s. This value was used to map the user’s breathing to the the lighting animation of the red LED channels.

Here are some pictures of my prototype…. I didn’t get a chance to make a video of it in action. But the circuit is pretty simple to recreate, so I might just have to go back and do that later.

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