FACT interior

Bio-sensing meets art

As part of FACT’s (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) 10th anniversary show in Liverpool during the summer of 2013, researchers from the School of Natural Sciences and Psychology worked in partnership with international artists to create interactive digital art exhibits.

The collaboration between LJMU and artists from Manifest.AR for the ‘Turning FACT Inside Out’ exhibition focused on physiological computing systems where live signals from the brain and body are used as adaptive inputs to technology. Manifest.AR work with augmented reality where digital objects are superimposed on the physical scene using the camera view on smart phones and tablets. Their exhibit for FACT’s show was called ‘Invisible ARtaffects’.

Several pieces of Invisible ARtaffects were developed that combined augmented reality with psychophysiology, three were designed with input from members of LJMU's physiological computing group. The Human Conference Sensors project (Sander Veenhof) was concerned with design to monitor audience concentration levels and to introduce augmented reality content if the viewer became disinterested. Similarly, Things We Have Lost (John Craig Freeman) incorporated an electroencephalogram (EEG) whereby the act of mental relaxation elicited the appearance of digital objects. Biomer Skelters (Will Pappenheimer and Tamiko Thiel) captured heart rate activity as a person walked around Liverpool and converted the data into a trail of virtual plants. Sustaining a relaxed state during a journey i.e. maintianing a low heart rate, increased the number of plants appearing in augmented reality; two teams of people, one planting native species and the other spawning invasive exotic plants compete to 'out-plant' one another across the city.

One of the ideas behind Biomer Skelters was to explore how people use technology to explore their own physiological activity in a creative way; the piece also allows the public to experience a novel and emerging category of technology for the first time. Evaluative feedback from members of the public who experienced the innovative artwork indicated that users enjoyed the experience of using this new form of technology and found the experience of regulating heart rate whilst walking to be challenging.

Overall, the collaboration had multiple influences, not only on the public who experienced the exhibits, but on the practice of the contributing artists and on the exhibition strategy of FACT.

Find out more about the research within the School of Natural Sciences and Psychology.

"My concern is to build augmented reality artworks that really engage the viewer/user in an exploration of the physical site and with their own body in space. In this project the biosensor made these ubiquitous but often unconcious connections and feedback loops between us, the artworks and our environment tangible and perceivable as a complete system."

Tamiko Thiel -

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