Imagine holding in your hand an enclosure shaped as a heart, that is pulsating through lights and vibrations at the same pace of your own heart. Classic biofeedback. Now picture giving it to someone in front of you: we assure that the words “take this, this is my heart” has quite an effect on visitors during an exhibition. This is Vibes, the tangible biofeedback you hold onto, that you can share, exchange, feel and make feel. Among the use cases we envision with Vibes: send your heart rate (i.e. your vibes) to someone far away, to remind them that you think about them. For the moment we can easily switch the signals between pairs of devices, to have users comparing their rhythms one with another.
In the next iteration we will improve the haptic feedback. While vibration motors give satisfactory results to mimic a beating heart, we are in the process of integrating novel actuators, which versatility enables to explore any dynamic (think tiny boomboxes in the palm of the hand).
Vibes is still at an early stage, and yet we witnessed first hand how giving away a pulsating heart — even a nice-looking one — has an immediate effect on users. There is intimacy involved. Interestingly, often people would compare the pace of Vibes to the one that can they can measure themselves, placing for example a finger on the jugular. We observed these situation occurring more frequently that with our other biofeedback devices. People tends to underestimate the pace of their heart rate; maybe because of the proximity between the representation and the actual phenomenon, any perceived discrepancy might prompt for investigation (still on the right side of the uncanny valley?). This relationship between representation and effectiveness is still an hypothesis, one that we hope to investigate in the future.