Vibrotactile Sensations: Exploring their impact on human body

Problem: Many people today experience an enormous amount of stress due to the fast-paced and competitive rhythms of a society that tries to survive under the uncertainty that Covid-19 brought. Stress constitutes a psycho-emotional condition that most of the times breaks out through the human body using various forms: headaches, stomach pains, fast pulses and breathing, sometimes even inertia. Many people turn to medicine drugs in an effort to find a way out, neglecting the therapeutic effects that a simple touch may have on their body. Alternative ways of medicine and well being such as pain and stress and management through meditation, therapeutic massage and reflexology are being neglected by the variety of people, especially in West societies.  Sometimes, a simple touch and push between your eyes, may prove to be enough to stop a strong headache or force yourself to release significant stress and feel asleep.

Solution: For my final project, I propose the design and computation of an e-bandage that can be wrapped around different areas of the human body (head, stomach, arm) and offer different vibrotactile sensations, that can either calm stress, treat pain or even induce an alert. In this project, I am about to explore different effects of vibrations and their impact on the human body, by playing with factors such as the spatial configuration and distance among the vibrators, their intensity, frequency and location upon the body. I intent to use two arrays of LRA vibration motors, where different combinations of motors are going to be activated for different haptic patterns. A touchpad matrix is going to be used for choosing which effect should be executed.


  • 8 x LRA vibrating motors
  • 8 x Transistors to increase power output of the motor
  • 8 x Adafruit haptic motor drivers or 8 x SparkFun Haptic Motor Driver (?)
  • conductive thread
  • optional: Flora microcontroller or LilyPad arduino

Fight Alzheimer’s Disease with Karaoke


Alzheimer’s Disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. Experts suggest that more than 5.5 million Americans, most of them age 65 or older, may have dementia caused by Alzheimer’s. Recent estimates indicate that the disorder is ranked third in the leading cause of death in U.S. With longer life expectancy and larger population, prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease is no doubt challenging but also necessary.

So far little is known about the cause of Alzheimer’s Disease, and no evidence has proven any treatment that works for sure. However, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM),  found “encouraging but inconclusive” evidence for three types of interventions:

  •  Increased physical activity
  • Blood Pressure Control
  • Cognitive training.

Further study shows that informal cognitively stimulating activities, such as reading or playing games, may lower risk of Alzheimer’s-related cognitive impairment and dementia. In addition, social activity also has positive impact for prevention.


I was trying to come up with a device that can encourage the person to engage in social activity, cognitively stimulating activity, and physical activity. Then I thought about the Pokemon Go which you get rewarded by going to different places; I also thought about video games where items can be shared across different devices when they are connected.

The device is basically a karaoke device that can display lyrics to the screen. An optional microphone is connected with the device through Bluetooth.

The layout of the device
The optional Microphone gives the vibe of Karaoke.

Learning the song and memorizing lyrics is also an informal cognitively stimulating activity. When the reader has learnt the song and does not need the lyrics anymore, the lyrics can be switched off by the top button.

However, there is no song to play. The user can select a music genre and time period every day; the user has to do some physical exercise such as walking and running for a period to earn a song from the selected genre and time period. The physical activity is detected by an accelerometer placed in the users’ shoes.

To encourage social activity, songs can be “shared” between two users. For example, if I find out that my friend has a song that I would like to have on my device, he can share the song with me. There is also a PK feature that allows the user to challenge each other; the two users will sing the same song, and whoever look at the lyrics for the least amount of time wins. The purpose of these mechanism is to make users meet more with their families and friends.


LCD screen


Rotary encoder



Mini MP3 Player

Bluetooth Module HC06

Invisibility in covid

I’d like to expand on my sound crit idea to incorporate the invisible factors around covid prevention. Three sensors I’d use – wind sensor, ultrasonic sensor, volume sensor. Together, they can provide the count on the number of people in a room, ventilation speed and how loud people are talking. This would feed information into a p5.js sketch that shows a visualization of what’s in a green, orange or red zone. This can also be accompanied by a sound when the red zone is reached, and potentially windows can be set to open automatically.
Alternatively, I could also work on a shopping mall entrance checker with a temperature sensor and a ml5.js sketch that recognizes whether the person in front of it is wearing a mask. If they’re not wearing a mask, the door doesn’t open to allow them to enter (probably use a servo to simulate this), even if their temperature is within range.

Are you set for the next couple hours?


With quarantine, I have not been leaving the house all that much, so I seem to have lost my intuition about temperature and my habit of always checking the weather in the morning. This has led me to be surprised by how hot/cold it gets if I’ve gone on a long walk or gone grocery shopping as well as when it starts raining before I’ve gotten home. This led me to the idea of a system that when I leave the house, would let me know about weather changes in the 2 following hours without bothering me. During initial discussion, Jet brought up the suggestion of having reminders only if the person isn’t prepared for the weather change as well as a notification if the person forgot a mask.


To realize my idea, I plan to make a system that would notify you depending on the weather change when you are leaving the house. It would be known if you are leaving the house rather than entering house because the motion sensor would not be triggered. When you open the door, the current weather would be compared to the weather in the next 2 hours and if it will rain, snow, and/or the temperature will change by 5°F or more you’ll be notified. This data would be collected by a python web scraper. For rain or snow, a pitter-patter type sound would be played by the speaker and temperature changes would be signified by the LED strip’s colors. To attract the person’s attention, this would flash the appropriate color of red-orange or blue three times before staying on for about 5 seconds more. These reminders would be noticeable but not a bother if you are already prepared. This is what I want to first accomplish and then will move on to implementing the RFID part as this is most important to me and it is easily usable by everyone and tags would not have to be put on clothes. Additionally, this would be my first time using WiFi on a project, connecting the Arduino to Python, and creating a web scraper, so I want to focus first on doing that well.

To create the system that would only notify the person if they aren’t prepared, I’d put an RFID scanner near the door frame beside the magnetic door switch so that the the tags on clothes could be scanned while you walk by. The same barcodes would be on things that fit the same purpose. For example, all masks would have one code, rain jacket and umbrella would have another, sweatshirts another, and light jackets another. This can be customized per user in the household code so that what they’d wear for certain conditions and the matching codes are associated with just that person. Each person would be differentiated by the RFID card that they carry on them whenever they leave the house, here the CMU ID card. For a full product using this, I’ve found laundry safe RFID tags that were pretty cheap and small so could work really well in this application.

Components I plan to use:

  • magnetic door switch
  • esp8266 module or board
  • speaker
  • led strip
  • motion sensor

Add ons

  • RFID sensor and cards


Pilates buddy

As a person who always sits in front of the monitor 24/7, my colleagues and I started to realize that we are beginning to establish another commonality other than our majors — back pain. Then I started to brainstorm around the problems of keeping up a good posture, and I got an idea of what other exercises require one to be in a straight back position.

Then I thought of pilates. Pilates, an exercise that requires one to not only have a straight back, but also a regulated breathing technique, and I thought making a pilates tracker would fit the agenda of the final crit.

There are two main interactions I am trying to tackle: the back posture and the breathing tempo.

For the back posture algorithm, I thought of manipulating the accelerometer’s XYZ values on each. If each value shifts in an inclined position, then the vibration motor 1 would buzz.

For breathing, two variations would be needed for the vibration: a short breath and a long breath. By having a button, one can change the tempo of the vibration motor 2. The vibration motor will pulsate in a standard breathing tempo.

Then the additional feature would be background music. It will be peaceful, zen music to corporate with one’s respiration as well. This will be done by integrating the mp3 function in the code.


The image on the left would be a more realistic appearance compared to the one on the right. The band will have the accelerometer in the middle, and the two vibration motors on each side.


This is what it would look like as a sketch.


  • Developing a UI
  • Visualizing the band with real scale components in them
  • Other components?


Interactive Restaurant Menu — Still in paper form!

Inspired by the LED bookmarks, I thought of how circuits could be integrated into traditionally paper like things. Restaurants menus have been evolving quite a lot, and I experience this culture shock every time I come back to China: they went from paper menu, to ordering from tablets/ipads, to having customers scanning a QR code to order and pay from their phone in the last few years. As much as I appreciate the convenience, I really enjoy the feeling of flipping through a paper menu.

LED bookmark

I understand many pros of having a digital ordering system for the customer end:

    • saves time for servers & the number of servers needed
    • avoid ordering mistakes
    • the order directly goes from customers to the kitchen without going through the servers
    • customers can see how much they will be spending right away

Adapting such system is costly, but the wide adoption indicates that the productivity beats the cost. However, in the US, we don’t really see restaurants that uses digital ordering system for the customers.

Some AR applications are used for restaurant menus, and there is a restaurant in London named Inamo that has interactive table tops. BUT I’m proposing a interactive menu that is still in the traditional paper form but takes advantage of the digital ordering system. 

Say when the customers presses on a dish on the paper menu, the dish he/she want to order lights up. The menu can display how much the customer will be paying. And when the customer finish ordering, he/she hits submit, and the order goes directly to the kitchen. The waiter can then collect the menu away, and the menu will be ready for the next customer to order.

As for components, I think I will need:

    • conductive tape
    • leds (either those flat/sewable leds or some fancier way of lighting things up while maintaining the overall paper like texture)
    • digit display/lcd to display price
    • a “submit” button
    • to select a dish, things that could work: tactile button, switch button, or even faking a button using tape


Class notes, 17 Nov 2020

Interactive jacket project from Baskinger’s Experimental Form class.

Look at the 2019 Final Crit for some good examples on elevator pitches and proposals.

Next Tuesday, 24 Nov, is the last day you can use A10.  We’ll make that a work day.  Thursday, 26 Nov, no class due to turkey day.

For Thursday, have a proposal posted to the blog’s Final Crit category.


Class notes, 12 Nov 2020

p5.js / arduino

Configure/test p5.js not required for final crit but lets make sure you can use it if you decide to.  The NYU ITP instructions are a good guide.  Do not use the online p5.js web editor, use local files and a local browser and text editor.

Final Crit

Start thinking about the final crit. We only have one more day to access A10, 24 Nov, and you should have your wish lists ready

For the final crit  combine visual, sound, and kinetics with a state machine and sensors to make something more accessible, usable, or uses universal design.

Here’s a rough schedule.  On some of the work days I will do a brief lecture based on questions or inspirational projects done in other physical computing projects.  The remainder of this time is making up for my not having open-office hours in A10.

  • 17 Nov — workshop proposals
  • 19 Nov — work day
  • 24 Nov — last day in A10
  • 26 Nov — vacation
  • 1 Dec — work day
  • 3 Dec — crit test flight
  • 8 Dec — work day
  • 10 Dec — final crit

Assignment for Tuesday

Crit warmup: come up with a problem to solve.  No need to write code (unless you want to), just a statement of the problem and your solution.

We will discuss these on Tuesday and brainstorm improvements.

Viewing assignment

These are based on the idea of how you can hide/obfuscate the man behind the curtain.

Former FBI Agent Explains How to Read Body Language

Former CIA Operative In Charge of Disguise Explains How Spies Use Disguises  (except for the model with a sleeve)

…and debunks spies and disguises in entertainment: