beats

Beats Exposed

Beats Exposed is an interactive aerial performance that breaks down the barrier between audience and performer. By exposing the performer’s heartbeat through sound and projected visuals, he or she invites the audience to see beyond the physical form. It is built to be used on or off stage. The technology powering the experience is lightweight and mobile, and therefore able to run in a variety of settings.

Role Creator, Developer, Performer
Tools Live Web, Performance, Projection, Wearable Tech
Press Adafruit Blog, “Beats Exposed #WearableWednesday
Link beatsexposed.com

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Challenge

Beats Exposed is a collaboration between a lighting designer and two aerialists with backgrounds including work in the circus and on Broadway. We came together to build an experience that breaks down the barrier between audience and performer that is present in many traditional performances.

Performance often aims to transport its audience from reality with theatrical lighting, dramatic costumes, and fantastical feats that seem “effortless.” This type of performance can be striking, but it comes with a high ticket cost, confines on location, and the need for a large audience. These constraints can be extremely limiting.

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In this collaboration we wanted to examine these fantastical feats from a different perspective—one that embraces and exposes the physicality as a tool for connecting human to human. It is meant to take away the glass wall and “effortlessness” of performance. It is a moment by moment reminder of the performer’s physicality, vitality and mortality.

We also wanted to tackle issues of accessibility. We believe that performance art is something that should be accessible to all. Creating a performance experience that could be used outside of traditional venues allows us to share the experience to non-traditional audiences.

Solution

Together we created an interactive experience in which an aerial performer uses a wearable technology that houses a Polar pulse sensor and a Moteino wireless transceiver. The transceiver sends the pulse signal to a second transceiver, which is attached by USB to a computer and sends the signal to the serial port. The serial transmission is then brought into a computer graphics application. The graphics are shown on a projector as they respond in real time to the pulse transmission.

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The graphics application also plays an audio sample of a heartbeat with each pulse. This is livestreamed to a website where audience members listen to the pulse with their smartphones and noise cancelling headphones, which we provide.

We built the wireless transceivers with the Moteino RFM69W microcontroller, a USB LiPo Charger, and a 500mAh 3.7v LiPo battery. We programmed the microcontrollers using the Arduino IDE, and wrote the graphics and server application in Javascript. We used Digital Ocean to host the application, and websockets for broadcasting.