- Published September 2003
Using the heartbeat as an input device, the Toxicorama – an installation exhibited at the Mediatechnology exposition of the Leiden University in 2003 – performes interaction by the principle of biofeedback. While sitting on a chair in an igloo shaped tent and wired with electrodes to a heart rate monitor, the user controls images and sounds with its heartbeat. The video, which is projected onto the tent, contains psychedelic and hypnotic samples. Together with the sound they let the user experience an estranged environment.
The biofeedback is realized with a heart rate monitor, borrowed from the Leiden University Medical Centre. The heart rate is measured by electrodes on the body of the user and is confirmed by the device with a beeping sound. This is captured by a microphone connected to the Max/MSP software which plays sound and video based on the users heart rate. After a short period when the user has become familiar with the biofeedback the software changes the sound and video. 61 users (28 females and 33 males), were researched on how they reacted on the images and sounds by means of a questionnaire and the measurement of the heartbeat.
How can some of the bodily functions be used – beside the well-known manual – to make an interface for an audiovisual program. Is it possible to simulate a hallucinogenic drugs experience by that interface?
- Interaction by biofeedback, making use of body elements that can give feedback to the system other than the conventional interaction parts like hands on mouse and keyboard.
- Research how the user interacts, reacts on environmental changes and how the user can be manipulated.
- Try to make an alienated environment, like an LSD experience and make the user aware of the danger of alienation. Trying to give the installation a preventive task to warn the user for LSD-experimentation.
In the end the last goal was simplified. In favor of the aimed mental manipulation the preventive objective was skipped.
Video and Sound
The video contains the following segments:
#1 (00:00:00 - 00:00:10)
#2 (00:00:10 - 00:00:30)
#3 (00:00:30 - 00:00:50)
#4 (00:00:50 - 00:01:10)
#5 (00:01:10 - 00:01:35)
#6 (00:01:35 - 00:01:55)
#7 (00:01:55 - 00:02:15)
#8 (00:02:15 - 00:02:40)
#9 (00:02:40 - 00:03:00)
#10 (00:03:00 - 00:03:30)
#11 (00:03:30 - 00:04:03)
Conclusions heartbeat measuring
The heartbeat fluctuates during the four minutes the user spends in the Toxicorama. The values of the average visitor meander around 75 bpm. There are three moments that surmounts that number to 80, at segment 8 and 10. Segment 5 has a strong visual impact, but that can also be said of segment 3 and 4 so this is no sufficient explanation. Possibly it is because the volume of the heartbeat on the earphone is gradually made stronger. This could cause that the visitor (unconsciously) thinks that he hears his own heartbeat going faster. This is an example of biofeedback, where the heartbeat changes the users perception.
Segment 8 has the addition of color that could explain the speeding up of the heartbeat.For the high speed of the heartbeat in segment 10 there is no good explanation. It is the same segment as number 1 which has no strong visual impact. Maybe it is because the visitor has experienced a lot of stimuli during the almost four minutes when he is entering segment 10.
- Age is important. The group under the age of 30 seems more easy to be influenced in the Toxicorama, the people above 50 the least.
- Whether you are a man or woman determines slightly your results with the Toxicorama. Women scored better at having a high feeling, a speed-up heartbeat or feeling nausea while men scored better at having a throbbing heart and speeded up breathing.
- Weight is no factor in the results. People under 70 kg are slightly under the average. However three quart of these respondents filled in a positive value when asked if their heartbeat speeded up, in comparison to 50% of people above 70kg.
- Small people score better. People under the 1.60 meter length have stronger results. For instance, everyone (!) in this category had a ‘high feeling’. (Not more than half of the longer people responded to that.)
- Almost three quart of the people under 1.60 m was a little nauseas while only a quart of the long people was feeling the same.
- Remarkable: Almost all of the women had a high feeling, much more than men had.
Review of the Toxicorama in Mare (in dutch)
The Toxicorama was created by Hein Boekhout and Ruud Bakker as part of the Master Mediatechnology at Leiden University.
- Inspiration for the Toxicorama:
- Book: Fire in the brain: Clinical Tales of Hallucination (Prof. Dr.Ronald K. Siegel)
Dr Siegel states that hallucinations consist of simple and complex forms. The simple ones are most commonly tunnels, grids, concentrical spirals and other geometrical or symmetrical figures. The more complex forms are mostly characterized as pictures of the memory but since they are transformed (for instance by a geometrical form) they are not easy recognized.
- Book: Perception (Irvin Rock)
How we manage to turn 2-dimensional images that fall on the eye into rich, constant, 3-dimensional world.
- Books: The pleasures and pains of opium (Thomas de Quincey) & The doors of perception (Aldous Huxley)
Both books describe how hallucinations look like.
- Performance: A sophisticated soirée (91v2.0)
Performed at Ars Electronika in 2001 where the heartbeat was used as a device for data-output. 64 participants were each attached to two disposable stick-on electrodes which send the electrical heartbeat to a receiver station. The status of all heartbeats were interpreted together as a 64-bit-wide stream of data.
- Performance: Interactive multi-media performance with bio-sensing
and biofeedback (Yoichi Nagashima)
Yoichi Nagashima has produced many types of interfaces, on the one hand with physical/electrical sensors but also with biological/psychological sensors. He wrote a paper in which he investigates sensing/reacting with ‘breathing’ in performing arts, he calls breathing media. The Vocal Breath Sensor acts with heavy breathing and the breast, which expands and contracts and is attached to rubber tube sensors which change its resistance with the tension. The breathing is converted to midi in real-time and is output in graphics on stage. The SHO Breath Sensor is based on the SHO, a Japanese mouth organ. The air-pressure sensor converts the breath pressure to MIDI. It also works with Max/MSP.
- Movie: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Terry Gilliam)
A movie about an oddball journalist and his psychopathic lawyer who travel to Las Vegas for a series of psychadelic escapades.