Cosmos is a shared experience where multiple users can observe a biofeedback of their heart-rate activity, displayed on a large screen.
To each user is associated a(n archetypal) heart that is wandering in space. The heart rate defines the position of the heart symbol on a diagonal from low to high while the heart rate variability will make the heart wander up and down. This playful visualization is simple and yet effective to account for different features associated with heart rate. More importantly, beyond giving information about each individual, Cosmos in the background is constantly computing various metrics related to the synchronization between users. Events are triggered in the environment depending on the similarities that are extracted from all heart rates. For example, a correlation between two heart rates will display rainbows launching from one heart to the other, while a cluster of hearts (similar heart rates and heart rate variability) will provoke an avalanche of shooting stars and the cutest sounds you will ever hear. Cosmos prompts for introspection (take control of one’s heart) as well as for interaction among users (trigger events by joining efforts). It is also a good support to explain the physiological phenomenon associated with heart rate activity, the link between physiology and cognition or the natural synchrony that can occur between people.
We had the opportunity to showcase Cosmos during many public exhibitions. More that once, we observed how relationships could shift when a user was facing their heart rate and how it related with others’. People question what is happening and they would start various activities to try to control their hearty avatar; relaxation, physical exercises or social interactions… in various forms, often without realizing that their is still a world outside the experience. The kawaii factor® does help to lift anxieties linked to “exposing” oneself through biosignals. Playfulness prevails then, which in turns open the door to unique interactions, even between strangers.
On the technical side, because (for once) Cosmos does not rely on any specific object, it can be quickly setup. We can also interface it with most devices measuring heart rate (there is a standard bluetooth BLE connectivity in the industry), hence we can envision scenarios involving large group of users — we tested up to twelve at the moment. To study the impact of such biofeedback at the level of the group, Cosmos will have its own research in due time.