“A Raw Bioimmersive Experience”
To this day, sharing the human experience fully with another individual has not been possible. But can we get closer? We created Pulse as an experiment in engineering human connection by immersing participants in the raw sensory environment of their partner.
Participants enter a dimly lit canopy and guide themselves through the experience using an iPad. Elements of their encounter include lighting, sound, an enclosed space, and guided interpersonal interactions.
The two partners gaze into one another’s eyes for four minutes while listening to each others’ live, synthesized heartbeats.
This interaction engages each participant’s primary senses of sight and sound in transformed representations of their partner’s physical experience, creating a sense of closeness.
We activate the experience using sound — in particular, heartbeats — as they are non-invasive, yet deeply intimate and metaphorically significant.
The piece is further informed by a study by psychologist Arthur Aron, and an article by Mandy Len Catron, who both posit that mutual vulnerability fosters closeness. We therefore introduce sight in the form of physical scrutiny, using Catron’s gazing meditation technique. To determine the right length, we tested 2, 3, and 4 minutes of gazing, landing on 4 minutes as long enough for participants to overcome their initial discomfort and settle into a more meaningful interaction.
This confluence of transposed physical signals and feelings creates a synthetic yet raw environment for connection.
Many participants experienced the piece with little to no background on what to expect, and participants told us they were both surprised and moved by the spontaneous intimacy in a festival setting.
This project required a fusion of physical installation design and construction with technical synthesizer design, user experience design and application development. We used earlobe heart rate sensors, control applications for sound and lighting, and a custom web application to collect user contact information. Iain worked on building the wearable electronics, explaination application, lighting and synthesis and overall system design.
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