Heart Pillow - product concept & prototype

Product concept, interaction design & prototype
School: NYU/ITP Fall 2012
Tutor: Tom Igoe
Partner: Bernardo Schorr (MFA Design & Technology, Parsons)
Year: 2012

Heart Pillow is a post optimal object that reproduces real time heartbeats into a pillow. The prototype is primarily composed of 2 parts: a polar heart strap that works as a sensing device to read heartbeats and a pillow equipped with a signal receiver and a vibration motor for reproducing the beats. Heart Pillow is a user experience and affective design research piece, intended to be used in any situations in which transferring a heartbeat into an everyday object can have an emotionally soothing effect or generate questions on the self. It explores the feeling of connectivity, calmness and comfort. Scenario examples could be a bridge to physically connect a couple that is apart, to calm down newborn babies with the known feeling of their mother's heartbeat or as an extension of the self into an everyday object as a tool of awareness.

Heart Pillow was developed in roughly 3 weeks, for final projects at courses at ITP (Maria Paula) and Parsons (Bernardo). We came up with this idea discussing about Bernardo's research on affective design (published at HCII). My interest in the heart beat was basically a simple interest in life and the warmness that it brings together. I've been already playing around with the Polar sensor and Arduino so the main challenge was to find a way to make the pillow beat as similar as we feel in a human chest. We were lucky that our first guess, a vibration motor inside a plastic box, worked perfectly. As classes were more about concept and hardware prototyping, they didn't require user testing but we filmed people's reactions at ITP and Parsons. Many possible user scenarios came up from talking to people, but repeatedly long distance and mother-new born relationships. More Heart Pillow documentation can be seen in my ITP blog.

As an art piece, we have presented "Heart Pillow" in several events and exhibitions, such as NYC Media Lab Future Interfaces in March 2013 and FILE São Paulo in July 2013, for which we developed a version using a pulse sensor to read users heartbeats through fingers.

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