HYPNAPOD is an ongoing art and design experiment by the Unconscious Collective which explores the use of biofeedback generated by the heartbeats of audience members
The aim is to investigate somatic connections between people – how living beings synchronise behaviour through non-verbal biological processes they may not be aware of, such as entrainment.
This is a well-documented, though little understood, mechanism in which both physical and biological oscillatory processes become spontaneously synchronised, e.g. circadian sleep cycles aligning with night and day. In animals, individual biorhythms can also synchronise, including fireflies flashing in unison, and the alignment of menstrual cycles.
To do this, we’ve been experimenting with pulse sensor technology which sonifies the heartbeats of audience members, creating an evolving polyrhythmic soundscape fed back via speakers or headphones.
The idea is that as pulse rates become audible a mutual entrainment phenomenon encourages them towards synchronisation.
We’ve used microprocessors such as Arduinos and Rasperry Pi’s, linked via a wireless network to commercially-available pulse sensors which use both optical and ballistographic measurement techniques.
We are also curious about non-private spaces which facilitate peripheral kinds of sleep - naps, snoozing, dozing, daydreaming - known as hypnagogic states.
What kind of environments facilitate group experiences of such states - which we call ‘crowd snoozing’ - in public?
We’ve also designed and manufactured furniture objects which place occupants in a relaxed position and bring them into contact with hidden sensors
Nine beanbags manufactured from silver Tyvek, with optical sensor consoles, created for ‘M*Sync 2016’, a performance and music event hosted by MPavilion on the theme of biological and lunar synchronisation
A ‘cardiophonic lounge suite’ consisting of four custom made chairs, two ottomans and a coffee table, commissioned by the Menzies Insitute for Medical Research (pictured).
Relaxation and revelation
As mutual entrainment appears, audience members experience a feeling of relaxation, but also revelation through a deep sense of somatic connectedness with those around them.
We have observed entrainment occurring in each of these iterations of the Hypnapod project, and have identified a number of directions for further experimentation:
Increasing the number of participating audience members to a much larger scale, for example by creating an array of up to 25 pods
Extending the sensor network via the internet to enable the potential for pulse synchronisation between geograpically distant sites, even globally
Further integrating the pod fabric with the technology, through exploration of electroconductive fibres and other new technologies as they emerge