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 SoftLab is a space dedicated to the research and development of artistic projects using soft-circuits and wearable technology in the Center for Digital Arts & Experimental Media (DxArts) at the University of Washington, in Seattle.


Interactive Origami Migraine Aura by Kellie Dunn

Interactive Origami Migraine Aura by Kellie Dunn


"A migraine is caused by changes in your nervous system. Migraines may progress through four stages: prodrome, aura, attack and postdrome. Not everyone experiences all the stages.
... Auras are usually visual but can also be sensory, motor or verbal disturbances. Visual auras are most common.
A visual aura is like an electrical or chemical wave that moves across the visual cortex of your brain. ... As the activation spreads during an aura, a person loses normal visual function.
The best known visual aura is called a fortification spectrum because its pattern resembles the walls of a medieval fort. It may start as a small hole of light or sometimes as bright geometrical lines and shapes in your visual field.
This visual aura may expand into a sickle- or C-shaped object, with zigzag lines on the leading edge. As it moves, it may appear to grow. Auras aren't the same for everyone, so you might also experience bright spots or flashes. Auras are sometimes accompanied by a partial loss of vision referred to as a scotoma. Auras commonly last 10 to 30 minutes."

(quoted from Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-with-aura/multimedia/migraine-aura/vid-20084707)


I am a masters student in HCDE at UW. For my final project for DXARTS 490A E-Textiles, I chose to build a representation of a migraine aura. It’s a thing that I’ve always wanted to make art about, because it’s so distinct and surreal. I find myself trying to describe the phenomenon while I am experiencing it, because no one else can see it. 

The media I used to create the representation are well suited to this purpose. The repeating origami tessellations evoke the geometric aesthetic of a fortification spectrum aura, and when pulled by the servo they move in a similarly hypnotic manner. The flashing LEDs simulate the shimmering, blinking nature of the hallucination and illuminate the psychedelic rainbow of colors painted onto the origami and the board. Flashing lights are also a common trigger for people with migraine (viewer beware!) The speed of the blinking and the movement of the origami are controlled by the viewer via a wearable interface: an interactive hat with pressure sensors on only the right side of the head, because migraines are usually one-sided. The gesture of putting your hands on your head, and squeezing or massaging it, is familiar for people with migraine. This mode of interaction physically puts the viewer into the pose of someone experiencing a migraine. The pressure sensor extends to the temple and the back of the neck, two areas that are often painful or problematic during an attack.

In general, the use of electrical circuits in this piece is an appropriate metaphor for the ways that the neurological system functions, and the ways in which technology is playing a role in the treatment of this condition. In contrast, the incorporation of origami, a centuries-old art form, is a nod to the long documented history of migraine and its common occurrence in artists all around the world.

Wearable Synthesizer: Modifying open source code with the use of E-textiles by William Perry

Wearable Synthesizer: Modifying open source code with the use of E-textiles by William Perry

Daniela Rosner - Critical Fabulations and Rope Core Memory workshop

Daniela Rosner - Critical Fabulations and Rope Core Memory workshop