We all have a heart. It beats to the tune of our lives, slow one minute and fast the next. When we are excited or stressed it runs fast and when we are relaxing it runs slow. It reacts to emotion and we tend to take it for granted, despite the life it pumps through us every day.

We affect our heart by what we see, what we consume and what we do. Listening to music has an effect on our pulse. The rhythms can transport us to imaginary worlds, calm a troubled mind and cheer us out of melancholy. Music makes our heart beat to its tune. The Pulse of the City plays with this idea. Instead of music affecting the heart rate; the heart rate creates the music. By holding the handles of the heart you can hear your own heartbeat and make music with it.

The handles pick up the electrical signals from your body. Once the heart rate has been measured it uses it to create a unique musical composition that plays to the rhythm of your heart.

This interactive heart has been built for the Bristol UK "BIG Green Week" festival that is taking place in June 2013. This is a fun project and it has turned out as hoped - an engaging interactive experience for the public!

Step 1:

The heart has two handles, these are grasped by a person to activate it.  Electronics within the Heart then detect the small electrical signals generated by the human body to determine the individuals heart rate.  The heart rate is then analysed by a computer (Arduino) which controls a MIDI synthesizer to generate rhythmic music and flashing LEDs in time with the persons heart beat.

Starting a design like this from the basic electronic component level would be rather challenging, it is far better to make use of existing boards that are readily available from internet sources.  Not only does this save time but it also minimizes the number of problems encountered during the system development.

The complete Heart comprises:

1. ECG (EKG) amplifier as used in exercise machines
2. Arduino micro-controller
3. MIDI synthesizer board
4. LED drivers and 54 LEDs
5. Audio amplifier and speakers (PC speakers)
6. Power Supply
7. Heart shaped fibreglass case

The original San Francisco Heart was built by George Zisiadis and Matt Ligon for the Urban Prototyping (UP) festivals, these festivals are designed to connect cities and people together to help build good relationships.

The software for the Bristol BIG green Week heart has been rewritten and new features added whilst retaining the musical foundations of the original, the electronics has been substantially changed too, this is mainly increase the heart ECG detection reliability. The case has been built from fibreglass using a Helium balloon as the starting point!

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