Personal space detection for agoraphobics, claustrohobics and other city-dwellers

0lafilelenrue.jpgI’m sometimes asked what my favourite “new media art”/interaction design projects are. The answer varies according to my mood that day. But i can say that in my own private Top 10, there’s Christian Nold‘s Biomapping which i discovered back in 2004 at the Futuresonic conference. Bio Mapping monitors a person’s emotional arousal in conjunction with his or her geographical location. People are sent in the streets with a BioMapping device that records their Galvanic Skin Response. Using Google Earth, the system plots a map that highlights point of high and low arousal. By sharing this data maps can be created that visualise where we as a community feel stressed and excited.

Urban Sonar, by ITP students Kati London, Sai Sriskandarajah and Kate Hartman, does something similar. The personal space monitoring system allows users to analyze spatial experience by recording their heartrate, but also the amount of empty space around them, for review at a later time.

The Urban Sonar jacket has four ultrasonic sensors that measure the individual’s proximity to other people and objects to the left, right, front and back. The sensors communicate via Bluetooth with a Java-enabled mobile phone, which records these four proximity values along with the user’s heartrate which is monitored through conductive sensors attached to two fingers on each hand.


The data can then be uploaded to a server for playback at a later time, allowing the user to consider, with a degree of critical distance, his/her spatial experience over the course of fixed period of time. Playback consists of an accelerated visual representation, from a birds-eye view, of a constantly shifting geometric representation of the user’s space as it fluctuated during the recorded period.

Check out the work at the ITP Winter Show, on December 17 and 18, 721 Broadway at Waverly Place 4th Floor South Elevators New York.

Other projects that deal with the space around us in urban environment: Ann de Gersem’s Life dress and the Space dress by Teresa Almeida.

Related: Net_Dérive, the city as instrument; Sonic City, a wearable piece that enables people to compose music in real time by walking through the city; headphones that turn urban noise into music.