Narcisystem Belt - The Biometric Self Captured

The Narcisystem is an effort by one person to continuously gather as much biometric information as possible and then use it for environmental control. The device is worn as a belt, and uses a Funnel IO Arduino clone from Sparkfun Electronics to gather all the sensor readings and then transmit them to a laptop.


(Narcisystem belt video)

Here's what kind of sensors were used:

  • Heartrate monitor - In order to detect heartbeats, I used a Polar heart rate monitor strapped to my chest.
  • EEG - To achieve something that looked like an EEG, I ripped apart a Ramsey Electronics Electrocardiogram Heart Monitor Kit.
  • Breathalyzer - I measured my breath alcohol concentration using a MQ-3 Alcohol Gas Sensor from SFE. This cute little sensor was strapped to my arm, so I had to remember to occasionally breathe on it.
  • Compass - I measured my bearing using a HMC 6352 compass module from SFE.
  • Accelerometer - The accelerometer is a ADXL202 on a SFE breakout board.
The data from the device was used to control the user's environment in various ways. For example, Eric erected a lighting tree in a ring around himself. The lights would flash red with his heartbeat, but selected lights would turn blue whenever he faced a given light. So, to the user, all the lights looked blue (see video below).


(Narcisystem controls the lights)

The breathalyzer triggered a fog machine; the accelerometer data triggered a subwoofer.

I would connect this project to several other recent articles. In Total Health Surveillance, I opined that having allowing 24/7 monitoring of your physical state might have some dark applications. In the Narcisystem project, Eric takes as much information as he can about himself and then makes his environment all about himself.

In Roomba Detects Emotions Like HAL-9000, I wrote about how machines could take their cue from human beings in less explicit ways. A roomba was programmed to respond to bio-electric signals relating to the stress level of the user.

In novels like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke wondered about the implications of letting a machine have access to the voice data and stress analysis software that would allow the HAL-9000 computer to deduce stress. Just how much biometric data do we want the machines around us to have? And how smart do we want them to be?

Kind of a neat experiment, though.

From Narcisystem via hack a day.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/30/2009)

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