Rith. Work. Etc.

😬 I’m currently reading We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, learning how to sew, and building a recipe database that can be sorted by food texture, cleaning effort, and cooking method.

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(something like this,
in a nine-square grid)

Brainwave researches the corresponding between our brain and the surrounding environment. The research studies the electroencephalogram (EEG) data collected from participants in response to external stimuli. We then use the data to create a light installation, visualizing the constant feedback loop between brain activities and the environment.

Client: Responsive Environments and Artifacts Lab, Harvard
Team: Designer & Researcher (Me), AI/ML Engineer, Software Developer, Fabricator
Role: Research, Concept & Design Development, Arduino & Processing Prototyping, On-site Installation

How does our brain shape the environment and vice versa? The project started out as with a research question from Harvard's REAL Lab (Responsive Environments & Artifacts), which asks, "how does the environment shapes our behavior?". We expanded and reframed question to further understand the simultaneous relationship between the environment, our cognitive interpretation, and our behavior. The question became "How does our brain shape the environment and vice versa?"

We then reached out to BrainCo, a startup that develops cognitive training technology products with machine learning, design, and neuroscience to create innovative cognitive-based application.

Controlled vs. Complex Environment
___Pain points
Understanding that early BrainCo Focus1 prototype was meant to use in a controlled environment of a classroom, we want to explore:
1. What if the environment is more complex?
2. What is the relationship between physical and cognitive response?

Prototyping Participants wear a real-time EEG-measuring device from BrainCo, while walking up and down the ramp of the Carpenter Center at Harvard. We video record the participant's activities and cross-reference the footage with the measured EEG data. The prototyping aims to understand one’s cognitive, and potentially emotional, response to external stimuli: physical activity, the built environment, weather condition, interaction with others. The device specifically measures the focus level of each participant, which yields similar patterns across a focus group of participants:

+ Focus level increases when participant walks up the ramp in contrast to the downward walk
+ Focus level increase when participant operates the manual door opening

+ Focus level decreases when participant encounters strong wind out on the ramp versus inside the shaded platform

Final Installation

The original intent of the BrainCo device and its software has a 1-1 relationship which is to measure the focus level.

To process and visualize the data into the light installation, we extracted the raw data from the BrainCo processing software into a CSV file, then use Processing and the Arduino board to analyzed and visualize the data.

The light installation envisions a new study environment in Gund Hall of the Harvard Graduate School of Design. While the students working on their project, the light fixture installed on the desk changes to reflect their focus level. When the focus level drifted down, the light fixture gets brighter to get the students’ attention. There’s a particular brisk shift in the EEG data when the students enter counter an error message from the software they’re using. In this scenario, the light flickers. This creates the initial stage of the feedback loop between the brain and the light.

The subsequent stages of the feedback loop are simultaneous when the brain received information/stimulus from both the project they’re working on and their response to the light changes. Thus, there is constant communication between the brain and the light, one affects the other simultaneously. 

Next Steps 1. Quantify subsequent feedback loops
2. How do we use our cognitive response to create a better environment to work, live, and play?