The theme the Max MSP doing module was “fragmentation”. To me, “fragments” suggest fragments of memory, or remembering fragments of things, so I wanted to make something that would record snippets of the user’s life.
The first thing I had to do was establish precisely what aspects of someone’s life I was trying to capture. What parts of your day are actually worth savouring? It’s not gonna be things like buying milk, watching TV, or cooking dinner… you’re going to value more important things than that. So I decided to capture moments when the user experiences an emotional surge, ie. when they are excited, or distressed, or nervous.
To do this I created a circuit which uses an LED and an LDR to pick up your heart beat. It works by detecting the change in density in your finger; when your heart beats, your blood pulses into your finger and it momentarily becomes denser. Between pulses, the blood flows out and your finger becomes more transparent.
The LDR detects these minute changes in density. I used Arduino2Max (as, after battling with both for a while, it seemed decidedly more simple than Firmata etc!) to read in the values from analogue port zero.
So basically, my Max MSP patch reads in the analogue pin and, when the pulse hits 80 beats per minute or above (the approximate “elevated heartrate” for an average person), it records a 5 second snippet of video and sound. These are all saved, with the idea being that you could look back through them and have a record of fragments of your high and low moments. What I really like about it, is that you might not even be aware of some of them; you could look back through your day and find little fragments you weren’t aware were making you feel particularly happy or sad.
Here is my patch in full, please excuse my tragic face, I am full of the cold!
And in presentation mode, with the playback/viewing window becoming more of a feature:
I think the idea could have some nice applications within wearable technology. A rough concept I thought of would be for a “memory hoody”… sew a small camera into the front of the hood, run the sensor down out of the sleeve, and you could capture memories all day. The circuitry could be stored in a small pocket somewhere on the hoody.
All in all, my Max MSP experience hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be. I found it a bit frustrating at first, as everything I do is very physical, and everything I thought I wanted to do with Max would have been much better realise with another program, so I had to really think hard about what I wanted to achieve. I never really do anything screen-based, so this was a first for me. I even managed to put aside the electronics to concentrate on the patch!
Things I would have liked to have done include adding a timestamp to the videos, and maybe a more comprehensive playback/viewing screen and controls. I think I’ve done okay though – I wanted to interface with Arduino, which I managed, and I did achieve the objectives I set out to.