UIST student innovation contest

Cardio Doodler

A heartbeat controlled pattern generator for activity monitor and self-reflection.
🌟 Best Implementation Award | 31st UIST Student Innovation Contest
A Doodling Machine

Design challenge
Implementing a robot to allow user interaction without hands
Product design, user testing, storytelling
my role
Always a fan for hand-craft art, the invitation from Licia to build a doodling robot totally got me. On top of the theoretical model of controlling robot arms to move by computed coordinates, I joined the team and took charge of assembling and testing our robot. Along with Licia and Yue, I iterated different robotic structures of how the robot arm moved, speed, accuracy and latency. To further consolidate our design assumptions, I conducted 5 user interviews individually and extracted insights to build on the robot modeling. For the final demo at UIST, I designed the poster and acted as a storyteller as well as the moderator during the demo tests of attending guests.

Sept - Oct 2018
Olivia Ouyang (Me), Yue Wang, Shiqing He (Licia), Hariharan Subramonyam
Yue, I and Licia were at demo in Berlin UIST
Team DoodleIT at Berlin UIST
design process

What can we learn from our heartbeats?

With the prevalence of wearable devices, numerical fitness data like heart rate (with unit of BPM) and steps could be easily accessed.
Out of our own interest, we wondered what the numbers on these devices mean to users? Would they change user behaviors?

What does numeric heart rate data mean to users?

I conducted 5 interviews ranging from frequent users to non-users for various fitness devices to further explore our design space. There are some key takeaways:

Active heartbeat monitoring users

Causal heartbeat monitoring users

Anti heartbeat monitoring users


Numbers are boring... What else can we do?

Synthesizing my interviews, although heart rate monitoring is so prevalent in fitness applications and devices, this data hasn't been taken advantages from the majority of users because it is inaccurate in terms of medical purposes but too "professional" in terms of health knowledge required to interpret the data.
Combining with the academic secondary research from my team, we further specified our design challenge:
How Might We enable users without professional medical knowledge to make self-reflection upon their physical activities by creating an artwork?
Ideate & Prototype & Test

Quick iterations during development

Robot structure evolvement

After getting familiar with the mechanical structures of the robots, we followed a top-bottom approach to break down our feature and the very first step is to enable our doodle robot move its arm(s). With limited material and time, we decided to go with the single arm like Paul the robot rather than AxiDraw plotter robot.

Illustrator Paul the robot
AxiDraw plotter robot

Information visualization with doodling

Initially with the idea of capturing the changes on the doodles, we chose spirographs as models because small changes on the radiuses of the circle in formula could yield dramatic changes. However, it also led to the difficulty of interpreting the doodle -- which indicates increasing heart rate and which indicates the opposite? The infinite combinations of the spirograph made it impossible to guide users for self-reflection given the unpredictable using time.

The characteristic changes dramatically over time for spirograph
Thus, we tested out a single pattern doodling which could reflect differences by scale and tested them with simulated dataset and real data from heart rate sensor.
Pattern doodling with simulated data(left) and sensor data(right)

Handcraft 101 for problem solving

In order to minimize the interference that our data collecting device might cause, we chose PPG (Photoplethysmogram, widely used by most portable devices which only require an illuminator) over ECG (Electrocardiography, requires eletro pads to collect biological electricity) in terms of the heart rate sensor. However, right before leaving for Berlin, the PPG sensor died without notice. Therefore, we quickly switched to the ECG sensor we abandoned from the last iteration and made things running again. Moreover, the electro pads paired with our sensor could not be found in any physical stores in Berlin. Coming from the bold idea of utilizing the conductivity of salty water, we self-made the electro pads with cotton pad soaked in salty water and it worked!


Doodling for self-reflection with art

No matter you are doing meditation or weightlifting, Cardio Doodler will watch your heart rate variations in seconds without your extra attention. Once you finish your activities, a unique pattern doodling will be delivered which you can read the width and depth of deviations to interpret your heart rate stability and amplitude.
We were excited to see participants try different movements to alter their heart rate, and more importantly we saw people sharing the art pieces that represented their own uniqueness.
User testing during demo session at UIST (left) and the doodling result (right)
reflect & Move on

Design Thinking beyond Screens

Cardio Doodler not only offered me a ticket to be exposed to inspiring user interface technologies across diverse areas, but also help me to be more confident about actively seeking an optimal solution at the very moment to make peace with the chaos out of the iterative design nature.

And getting hard dirty with design and implementation at the same time helped me better understand the beauty of Design Thinking. This problem solving methodology aims to serve a wide audience and really emphasizes finding the fastest way to testing out. No paired belts for the rotors? Cut them from tires! Not enough beams to fix a joint? Tape it!

Although the final look of our robot was not stunning at all, it well expressed the idea that everyone was invited to pay more attentions to self-reflection.

Driven from the great feedbacks from user testing on the demo, we will be keep working on the next generation robot on art creation for wider audiences and impactful implementations.