Introduction: Lilypad and Pulse Sensors: the Other Body Experience

I have created and interactive installation aimed at shedding a light on body shaming.

My goal was to make the participant experience having a different body from their one, thus I altered an life jacket and filed it with sand, making it weigh 4.2kg. In addition, I equipped said life jacket with a pulse sensor connected to a lilypad and led lights. Afterwards, the soft circuits were connected to the computer thus sending information to “Arduino Amped Visualizer 1.1”, running on processing.

I wanted the participant not only to experience the weight gain, but also to visualize what happens to their bodies (the heart beat quickens, the lack of breath) and ultimately realize how difficult it is to perform daily tasks and exercise when one is overweight.

I am not a programmer, so I used the code available from the pulse sensor manufacture website and altered it to my needs.

Check out the project gallery!

Step 1: Lilyapd and Pulse Sensor

  • I began to solder the pulse sensor to the lilypad, the positive end of the sensor with the positive energy pin on lilypad, and the same with the negative end. The analogue end of the sensor (the purple cord) I soldered to lilypad’s A0 pin.

  • Secondly, I sewed the lilypad to a piece of fabric and using conductive thread sewed the power source.

  • Sewing the leds lighs was the tricky part! I wanted to intercalate the different colours, so the leds should be sewed with a certain order: red, white, red and so on; and different colours had different reaction to the analogue signal. So I sewed the negative ends of the leds together and then to the lilyapad negative pin. Then I sewed all the red leds positive ends to each other and to lilypad’s pin 13, and did the same with the white leds but sewed then to pin 5.

  • I could’ve sewn each singular positive end of the leds lights to a different pin, but I used Pulse Sensor Arduino Code available on (as it mimics the light effect that I wanted) and the code depends on pin 5 and 13 to function (I’ve tried other solutions and no others worked as well as this code).

  • On the back of the fabric I sewed sewing snaps so it would be easier to carry it around without the life jacket. (and to reuse the materials!)

Step 2: The Life Jacket

  • So I undid all the seams of the life jacket and took out the original floating material that was inside, as well as rearranged the original design.
  • I sewed the other side of the sewing snaps to left side of the jacket (near the heart), so that later I could clip the lilypad.
  • I created little containers with foam (almost as boxes shaped as the life jacket) and filled them with sand. Then I put them inside the life jacket and sewed the seams back.

Step 3: The Video Projection!

  • Lastly, I created an explanatory video on how to wear the jacket, how to use the pulse sensor and, most important of all, with an excerpt of a workout video. This way the participant would have to exercise while using the altered life jacket.
  • I added a BPM visualizer that runs on processing, based on Joel Murphy’s code, and prints the information sent by the pulse sensor to the computer using an USB 2.0.
    • The original visualizer window was too big and had unnecessary information, so I altered the code to fit my needs. (I've only altered the parameters on the PulseSensorAmpd_Processing_1dot1 tab)
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