World Maker Faire 2014, New York Science Park

World Maker Faire
Yay, arrived at New York Maker Faire 🙂

I was really excited to be in NYC in September to attend and do a presentation on my wearables work at my first US Maker Faire. Having exhibited at four UK Maker Faires in Newcastle, plus Brighton Mini Maker Faire and visiting both Elephant and Castle Maker Faires (where at the most recent I wandered about soliciting feedback on my EEG Visualising Pendant), I was full of anticipation for the World Maker Faire weekender at the New York Hall of Science, in Queens, New York.

Maker Faire
World Maker Faire is totally vast!

I had heard it would be big, but I wasn’t prepared for the hugeness of it, or that it would mainly be an outside event! It was comprised of several fields of stands and presentation stages, plus the entirety of the New York Hall of Science, which isn’t a small building. Because I had a big list of places I wanted to visit in Manhattan, I had intended to spend half a day on Saturday and Sunday at Maker Faire, but due to the vastness of World Maker Faire I spent two whole days there till closing each day and I still didn’t see everything or meet up with or find all the friends I had intended to say hello to.

Maker Faire is large!
Map of hugeness of World Maker Faire!

On day two (Sunday), on the Electronics Stage, I gave a presentation on my own work, primarily my Baroesque Barometric Skirt and EEG Visualising Pendant, which I wore around World Maker Faire, that incited much curiosity and feedback – which was a fun way to meet people! It was lovely that friends were in the audience and afterwards we had much fun wandering about and catching up. The talk slot was a bit short for me as I usually have a lot to say, so I had to wind up before my slides ran out, but I enjoyed the opportunity immensely.

Presenting on visualising physiological data
Me, presenting my wearable technology work at the Electronics Stage

Ivaylo, Mandy, Ran & me
Was fabulous to catch up with and hang out with Ivaylo, Mandy and Ran, plus thank you for coming to my talk 🙂

In terms of what was on show, it wasn’t very different from what I’d been used to seeing at UK Maker Faires, i.e. lots of electronics, crafts and technology stalls from individual makers, hackspaces and organisations, but there were loads more large stalls from the big players such as Atmel, Intel and Arduino.

Just one of the signposts around World Maker Faire!

It was great that there were many presentation stages and a multitude of talks to choose from, my favourite talk of the weekend was by one of my favourite inspirational wearables creators and thinkers, Kate Hartman, who spoke about the work her students have been up to at OCAD University in Toronto. I went up to Kate at the end to say hello, which was lovely. Check out her conceptual wearables, they’re very cool and have a look at the Social Body Lab and projects, which she runs at OCAD.

Kate Hartman talk
I really enjoyed Kate Hartman’s presentation on wearables

There were too many great stands and projects to document, but one of my favourites was the glorious Sashimi Tabernacle Choir, consisting of a car covered with over two hundred and fifty computer controlled lobsters, bass, trout, catfish and sharks. The Choir performs a choreographed repertoire of songs from pop songs to classical opera. It’s fabulous – enjoy the videos and info on the website!

Very amusing Sashimi Tabernacle Choir
The wonderful Sashimi Tabernacle Choir

A highlight of World Maker Faire was finally finding the OpenBCI stand. I had been conversing with Conor via email about their modular sensing kits that they had recently successfully ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund. To emphasise the vastness of World Maker Faire, it had taken me two days to find them. After asking at multiple help points, studying the map and wandering around and around the fields, I finally found the OpenBCI on the last day by grabbing a kindly information stand helper, who on hearing my plight, wandered around with me to find their stand! I’m really glad I persevered, as it was lovely to meet Conor and Joel and fascinating to chat about and view their OpenBCI wares being demonstrated, plus they had a special discount offer for that weekend, which I took advantage of and can’t wait to get my own OpenBCI kit soon!

Conor & me
Great to finally meet Conor from OpenBCI

Another highlight of World Maker Faire was bumping into inspirational electronics engineer and entrepreneur Limor Fried AKA Ladyada, and Phil of Adafruit. I have been following Limor’s work since I got my first LilyPad Arduino back in 2008, which I bent her ear about and also showed her my EEG Visualising Pendant. When I got back to the UK I sent details of the pendant to Adafruit and fab fellow wearable creator, (whose work I’ve also followed for years) Becky Stern put up a page up about it on the Adafruit Wearable Wednesday blog – thanks Limor and Becky!

Limor Fried (Ladyada) & me
Yay, thanks Limor for allowing me to bend your ear on my EEG Visualising Pendant 🙂

To sum up, World Maker Faire was huge, amazing and inspiring – I’d love to go again – thanks for having me!

Metrocard Man & Doge
Metrocard Man and Doge!

Mushy Daleks
Even at World Maker Faire there’s gotta be Daleks, especially knitted ones!

One has to say hello to the iconic Giraffe!

Strange and wonderful retro music makers
Strange and wonderful upcycled music machines

Drawing circuits
Ivaylo drawing a circuit with a conductive pen

Curreh vegan goat & other delacacies
Curry Vegan ‘Goat'(TVP) and other vegan delacacies were on offer!

Don't wear your EEG headset for too long!
This skellington is wearing their EEG headset wrongly!

OpenBCI stand
This skull is wearing their OpenBCI headset appropriately (I think)!

Posing with Make Robot
Posing with the Maker Faire Robot

International Symposium on Wearable Computers (ISWC) 14 Design Exhibition at Experience Music Project Museum (EMP), Seattle, USA

Barometric Skirt

For me, the highlight of the ISWC / UbiComp conference was exhibiting my Baroesque Barometric Skirt in the ISWC Design Exhibition and conference reception. This year the ISWC Design Exhibition was held at the Experience Music Project Museum (EMP) in Seattle, which is an amazing venue with a three-storey screen on which videos of our work were shown and also houses a permanent exhibition dedicated to pop culture and music. Because I took so many photos (and made a video) I’m giving the event it’s own page so that it doesn’t take over my main ISWC blog post! This year I didn’t meet all the other exhibitors during the Design Exhibition set up, so I can’t do a full report on all the exhibits, but a full list of the Functional and Aesthetic wearables can be found on the ISWC program (Tues: EMP Reception/Design Exhibition link).

Experience Music Project Museum (EMP), Seattle, USA.

ISWC 2014 is my third year of being honoured to have my responsive and emotive wearable tech work accepted by the Design Exhibition jury: in 2012 I had three wearables accepted for ISWC held at Newcastle University, UK, and last year in 2013, my EEG Visualising Pendant was accepted for exhibiting at ISWC at ETH Zurich, Switzerland.

Baroesque Barometric Skirt

This year I was extremely happy to take my Baroesque Barometric Skirt to ISWC Seattle to exhibit. The skirt visualises data in the form of four independent RGB LED strips from four sensors, three of them are environmental and are: ambient temperature, pressure and altitude, the forth is a temperature sensor that sits on the inside of the skirt and pulls in the wearer’s body temperature. My motivation for creating the skirt is that I am interested in how we can display our physiological data alongside that of the environment or ‘bigger picture’ of elements that we are surrounded by. The skirt changes visually as the wearer moves around environments and also as the body reacts to its present situation. This garment-device starts a conversation around the connections between the environmental and physiological data of the wearer. The Baroesque Barometric skirt contributes a new way of sensing and presenting environmental and physiological data together. My paper on the skirt can be found in the conference proceedings and is available here or via ACM, but if you have any problems you can get a copy from me.

Troy welcomes attendees to the Design Exhibition at the EMP.

Many thanks to Design Exhibition Chair Troy Nachtigall for heroic work on organising the whole shebang from submissions to the show at the amazing EMP Museum, which looked stunning and also to the jury: Maggie Orth, Rosa Asteway, Zoe Romano and Meg Grant and not forgetting the ISWC volunteers.

Links to my main post on ISWC and ISWC Doctoral School Colloquium.

Baroesque Barometric Skirt video on 3 storey video wall
My Baroesque Barometric Skirt video shown on EMP’s three-floor high video wall!

A selection of images of wearables from the Design Exhibition:

ISWC Design Exhibition
Innovative Explorations in Apparel Design to Create Engineered Outfits with Lighting Technologies by Eric Beaudette et al.

ISWC Design Exhibition
TWINY emotional logging by Sara Ferraro et al.

ISWC Design Exhibition
Ballet Hero: Building a Garment for Memetic Embodiment in Dance Learning by James Hallam & Emily Keen et al – winner of the Functional Design Award.

ISWC Design Exhibition
Flowers on a Pond – solar LED Dress by Anna Perry.

ISWC Design Exhibition
Digital Lace: A Collision of Responsive Technologies by Sarah Taylor and Sara Robertson – winner of the Aesthetic Design Award.

ISWC Design Exhibition
S.A.R.A. – synesthetic augmented reality application by Margarita Benitez, Markus Vogl.

ISWC Design Exhibition
Oiko-Nomic Threads by Marinos Koutsomichalis, Afroditi Psarra and Maria Varela.

ISWC Design Exhibition
‘TellMe’: Therapeutic Clothing for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Daily Life (background) by Helen Koo.

Me & Baroesque Barometric Skirt
Me standing by my Baroesque Barometric Skirt and wearing my EEG Visualising Pendant.

18th International Symposium on Wearable Computers (ISWC) + Pervasive & Ubiquitous Computing (UbiComp), Seattle, USA.

HMD fashions ;-)

ISWC + UbiComp is my favourite international twinning of conferences: ISWC showcases some of the most exciting developments in wearable computing and because the papers are reviewed by great academics, the quality of the papers selected is, in my opinion, excellent. UbiComp is great too, because it also has a high standard of accepted papers, which cover many topics across pervasive and ubiquitous computing that crossover with wearable tech interests. The conference took place in the rather nice conference areas of the Motif Hotel in Seattle, USA, September 2014.

Amy Ross keynote on designing spacesuits for NASA

For me, the most compelling presentation of the conference was the keynote given by Amy Ross of NASA, which gave us a fascinating insight into the history of the evolution (to the present) of what goes into the design and creation of space suits. I really enjoyed all the details of what worked and didn’t, plus the fab examples she brought along such as wrist mirrors for looking at spacesuit components, gloves (which I tried on) and even an emergency handbook of advice for astronauts!

Emergency instructions for astronauts -Amy Ross keynote on designing spacesuits at NASA

Me wearing spacesuit gloves - Amy Ross keynote on designing spacesuits at NASA

Astronauts mirror for looking at spacesuit items - Amy Ross keynote on designing spacesuits at NASA

A session that I particularly enjoyed was on assistive technology and included presentations on Passive Haptic Learning of Braille Typing by Caitlyn Seim, John Chandler, Kayla DesPortes, Siddharth Dhingra, Miru Park, Thad Starner, and Assistive EyeWear Prototype that interactively converts 3D Object Locations into Spatial Audio by Titus J. J. Tang, Wai Ho Li. Another interesting session on human behaviour included talks on Privacy Behaviors of Lifeloggers using Wearable Cameras by Roberto Hoyle, Robert Templeman, Steven Armes, Denise Anthony, David Crandall, Apu Kapadia and Connecting Personal-scale Sensing and Networked Community Behavior to Infer Human Activities by Nicholas D Lane, Li Pengyu, Lin Zhou, Feng Zhao.

There are short summaries of all the sessions on the ISWC website, where you can find the whole program or proceedings can be downloaded from ACM though this might incur a fee. Also worth a look through is the list of demos and posters – where I exhibited a poster for my PhD research and demo-ed my EEG Visualising Pendant.

An interesting addition to this year’s ISWC/UbiComp was the experimental addition of a number of telepresence robots for those wishing to attend but could not physically get to Seattle. I found the robots really intriguing to watch as they weaved around the conference rooms and people stopped to chat to their controllers. These were a good addition to the conference in my opinion and I was pleased to see at least one robot personalised with a scarf. As I won’t be able to afford to attend next year’s conference in Osaka, Japan, I will definitely be applying for one of the robots if they’re used again!

Interaction with telepresence robots has been fascinating

Telepresence attendees

During the conference there was a Seattle Quantified Self + ISWC + Ubicomp meet-up, which was great as I got to show my EEG Visualising Pendant to a new audience and meet some lovely and interesting people, including David Cooper, who organises the Seattle QS meet-ups and had coincidentally brought his Muse EEG headset along, which was nicely fortuitous as I was waiting for my Muse to be delivered at home and was eager to chat about the device. David also pointed me towards some interesting Github repositories to investigate.

David &t his Muse EEG headband at Seattle + ISWC + Ubicomp Quantified Self meetup

ISWC Doctoral School Colloqium at 18th International Symposium on Wearable Computers (ISWC) / Ubicomp, Seattle, USA

Last month I attended ISWC (International Symposium on Wearable Computers) / Ubicomp (Ubiquitous Computing) in Seattle, USA. I was honoured to be selected to take part in the ISWC Doctoral School Colloquium as it attracts excellent students from around the world in the field of wearable computing, as does the Ubicomp DS for ubiquitous computing researchers. I hadn’t attended a Doctoral School before, so was really excited to take part and hear about the work of others, plus get some feedback on my own research. The Doctoral School began with both ISWC and Ubicomp students getting together bright and early at 08:30 for introductions, I’d hardly had any sleep or rather had been awake from 12am Seattle time as I was so jet lagged and doolally from the 10-hour flight from London, so was stumbling around a little. After the introductions, we had a keynote on the life of a research student from Professor Shwetak N. Patel of the University of Washington, then split off into two groups for ISWC and Ubicomp. There were many varied and interesting research projects and each student gave a 10-minute PowerPoint presentation on their work, followed by feedback from the academic panel and peers.

ISWC Doctoral Skool

For my presentation, I discussed how my research investigates the possibility that wearable technology can be used to create new forms of non-verbal communication via physiological data, my thesis focusing on the following issues:

  • Responsive & Emotive wearables + my practice
  • Data / privacy
  • Relationships – the personal, social and cultural
  • Requirements – who is this tech for?
  • What the technology might it be!
  • Aesthetics / design considerations / UX
  • The maker & the market in bespoke wearables

Presenting at the Doctoral Colloquium

I gave a summary of my methods and methodologies, including focus groups, surveys and field trials. Also how I will disseminate the data via thematic analysis: emphasizes pinpointing, examining and recording patterns or themes within data (qualitative) & statistical analysis from surveys (quantitative). I concluded with possible contributions to the field.

This was followed up with some interesting and useful feedback and discussion on various aspects of my research with the academic panel and peers, on areas such as framing and narrowing down questions and problem solving. We also discussed the accuracy of current technology being used for sensing physiological data and its value to the user. The Doctoral School was an amazing opportunity to start conversations and get feedback on my research, which continued through the duration of the conference.

The Doctoral School concluded with Q&A session with all the academic panelists to discuss issues around making the decision between following a career in academia and industry. This brought up many interesting questions and comparisons, around themes such as long distance relationships, workloads and working abroad.

Presenting my poster on my PhD research at ISWC

All Doctoral School students also presented their work as part of the Posters and Demos Reception, a list of which can be found here I exhibited a poster and demo-ed my EEG Visualising Pendant, which attracted a lot of interest and questions from attendees of both ISWC and Ubicomp.

The Doctoral School was an excellent experience – for getting feedback on one’s research from academics and peers, hearing about what others around the globe were interested in and researching, plus meeting and making new friends – so totally worth the 10-hour flight and disorientating jet-lag!

Evening Frolik

Up the Space Needle with Jocelyn & Tamara

Tribeca Hacks StoryMatter Hackathon at CERN

Team3 on the balcony at CERN

In March 2014, I was over the moon to be selected to take part in the Tribeca Hacks and CERN’s StoryMatter Hackathon, at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. It’s really hard to write about this amazing experience in a short blog post, which is why it’s taken so long to write, but I’ve had a go!

Watch this amazing documentary of our week at CERN – it gives me goosebumps!

After taking the CERN shuttlebus to the familiar sight of CERN reception at Meyrin, I can’t put into words how excited I was to be back at CERN, and then sitting in the Geneva afternoon sunshine and meeting the steady stream of other attendees arriving. I stayed in Building 38, one of the three buildings at CERN, which offer different kinds of visitor accommodation. Building 38 is the on site-hostel which is comfortable and next door to the main restaurant which is large and has lots of different food options for the discerning CERN employee or visitor.

It's a beautiful sunny day at CERN

On the evening of our arrival, we all met for dinner in the main restaurant building and found our teams. Each of the 7 teams had 6 members that included: 1 x blackbox, 1 x storyteller, 1 x scientist, 1 x designer and 2 x technologists. It was really exciting to meet my team, which we later named Team 3, in the flesh after spending a week or so chatting about our ideas on Google Hangout and exchanging emails. My team consisted of Ivaylo Getov (Blackbox, from NYC, USA), Jason Wishnow (Storyteller from NYC, USA), Jasmine Idun Lyman (Designer from Gothenburg, Sweden), Kyle Gustafson (Scientist from Lausanne, Switzerland) and Julian Maciejewski (Technologist from Warsaw, Poland) and me, another technologist from London, UK. As we were quite an opinionated bunch with much experience of developing and managing our own projects and creativity, it took a bit of time to brainstorm through the set of ideas that we’d each percolated over on the week or so on the run up to coming to CERN and agree on an idea to pursue.


Welcome talk

We had a beautiful week at CERN weather-wise and awoke every morning to the sight of sunshine bouncing off the surrounding Alps and Jura mountains. On our first morning (and the rest) we were up very early (I got up at 5 or 6am every day) and were taken to the CERN Idealab, which would be our base for the coming week. Organisers: Opeyemi Olukemi, Manager, TFI Digital Initiatives, Amelie Leenhardt, Program Coordinator, TFI Digital Initiatives and Neal David Hartman, Artistic Director of CineGlobe Film Festival, led the introductions and outline of the week ahead. Our mission was to investigate new ways of telling science stories in a non-linear fashion, using technology, and our challenges were to come up with a prototype and/or a video to outline and document our projects to show at the end of the week at the prestigious CineGlobe Science Film Festival, held in the Globe at CERN, plus to strengthen connections between the disciplines of storytelling, technology, design and science, hence having a cross-disciplinary team.

Rummaging through CERN bins for parts

Amazingly, we were allowed to rummage in a couple of skips of electronics to look for inspiration for our projects, we had so much fun finding odd devices, bits of old interfaces and computer boards!

Prof John Ellis talk on CERN

On our first day we were wonderfully honoured to be given a talk on the history and work of CERN by Professor John Ellis, including an introduction to how the LHC works, particle physics and supersymmetry, he patiently answered lots of questions from us too. We were also very admiring of his Standard Model equation tank-top!

Last minute hacking

Our team decided to make an app telling the story of dark matter, our prototype uses interview clips that we recorded on site with Professor Martin Pohl, Director of the Nuclear and Particle Physics Department at the University of Geneva, and Team Leader on the AMS (Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer) project. The AMS is a particle detector bolted onto the International Space Station and is looking for evidence of antimatter and dark matter as it orbits the Earth.

Team³ late Sunday night hacking

Taken from our blurb, this reflects what we were interested in creating:
“Axion invites a player to immerse themselves in a unique audiovisual world and reflect on their journey. By allowing a player to discover the thoughts and statements of these scientists, we hope to draw a parallel between the visual poetry and the scientific language, illuminating a creative and expressive side of the discussion that is often not showcased, or that most people outside the scientific community do not hear. We want to leave the viewer not with answers, but with a sense that it is acceptable to be uncertain – realizing that the method of science is not the ultimate source of answers, but rather a way to ask questions.”

It's a BillT!

On day three, we had some special visitors who had come to hear about the StoryMatter Hackathon – it was none other than Bill Thompson, Gareth Mitchell and Colin Grant of BBC World Service technology programme Click Radio, they made a lovely radio programme about the StoryMatter Hackathon and interviewed us about our project. Another special visitor was David Reid from BBC Click TV programme, who made a film about the CineGlobe festival including coverage of the development of our apps at the Hackathon.

Team3 being interviewed for BBC World ServiceClick

Our team worked long hours and had little sleep during the week as we figured out what we would make and how. We constructed our non-linear app, which we called Axion (a hypothetical elementary particle) by taking an XBOX Kinect strapped onto a camera into the depths of the tunnels under the buildings of CERN to film and turn images of the tunnels into a mesh construct, which the user of the app would navigate around to find interview clips from Professor Pohl. We made sound recordings from around CERN to be used in the soundtrack and searched for inspiring images from outer and inner space. My contribution was an sensing e-textiles device which was used to navigate around the mesh tunnels in the app and we called The Oracle!

During our week at CERN, it was Paolo’s birthday, he didn’t think anyone knew, but we put on a surprise birthday party for him, with caek, music and bubbles – it was wonderful and a very touching way to celebrate our new friend’s special day!

Birthday party for Paulo

Visiting ATLAS at CERN

Our stay was full of amazing highlights and another was a tour of ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC Apparatus), which is one of the seven experiments attached to the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator. We took a lift 100 meters underneath CERN’s Meyrin Campus to visit 7000-tonne ATLAS. As well as listening in awe to our guide and taking many photos, we also (with the permission of the guide) wore some of Jasmine’s knitted gas-masks and did a quick bit of filming for a film she was making back in Sweden. The knitted gas-masks gave a fun and surreal feel to our trip; they certainly amused the rest of our StoryMatter tour party!

Visiting ATLAS at CERN

Opeyemi and Amelie set us tasks for every day of the week, including setting our milestones and actions to enable us to stay focussed on our projects. Everyone worked so hard on their prototypes that the presentation evening at CineGlobe came all too soon, during the late afternoon we took our prototypes over to the CERN Globe and set them up and rehearsed among ourselves our presentations to do on stage to the 200+ attendees. We had a brilliant evening of presenting and a lovely cocktail event after where the attendees came round and partook in demos and chatted to the teams.

Pretty CERN Globe at night

Finally presenting our hacks at CineGlobe Festival

Afterwards we had a raucous party in the Idealab with trays of lasagne, pizza, beers, wine and more. The dancing went on all night and into the morning. I only had a few hours sleep before it was time to get up and pack to leave, I was very sad to leave CERN and it was heart wrenching to say goodbye to everyone. I had the most brilliant week, with the most talented and wonderful new friends, which was amazingly well organised by Opeyemi, Amelie and Neal, plus with the help of brilliant CERN staff and students too numerous to mention, who helped us locate tools, interviewees, beg and borrow kit and info. If I had the opportunity I would go back to CERN without hesitation and have keeping an eye out for jobs and other creative opportunities.

StoryMatter hack party

I have a ton of photos here if you’d like to see more of the antics we got up to!

Route Marie Curie at CERN

Finally presenting our hacks at CineGlobe Festival

Team3 are still developing our Axion app in our spare time and keeping in touch across 1000s of miles around the globe via Google Hangout and email. We are now using a NeuroSky MindWave EEG headset to allow the user to navigate the tunnels and interviews of our app. We have also interviewed more scientists to broaden the range of the stories about dark matter. We’ve also been applying for development grants and sponsorship to help us develop Axion. In April, Ivaylo and Jason took Axion to the Tribeca Interactive Festival, in New York, to demonstrate and allow attendees to experience it.

Finally presenting our hacks at CineGlobe Festival

Finally presenting our hacks at CineGlobe Festival

Quantified Self Europe 2014: Emotive Wearables Breakout Session

Quantified Self Europe pre-party

It was great to visit Amsterdam again and see friends at the 3rd Quantified Self Europe Conference, previously I have spoken at the conference on Sensing Wearables, in 2011 and Visualising Physiological Data, in 2013.

There were two very prominent topics being discussed at Quantified Self Europe 2014, firstly around the quantifying of grief and secondly on privacy and surveillance. These are two very contrasting and provocative areas for attendees to contemplate, but also very important to all, for they’re very personal areas we can’t avoid having a viewpoint on. Rather than me try to summarise a few of the talks, if you’d like to find out more about the excellent presentations and discussions at the conference, search for ‘QSEU14’ or ‘europe’ on the Quantified Self website where many of the sessions have write-ups, photos and video documentation.

My contribution to the conference was to lead a Breakout Session on Emotive Wearables and demonstrated my EEG Visualising Pendant. Breakout Sessions are intended for audience participation and I wanted to use this one-hour session to get feedback on my pendant for its next iteration and also find out what people’s opinions were on emotive wearables generally.

I’ve been making wearable technology for six years and have been a PhD student investigating wearables for three years; during this time I’ve found wearable technology is such a massive field that I have needed to find my own terms to describe the areas I work in, and focus on in my research. Two subsets that I have defined terms for are, responsive wearables: which includes garments, jewellery and accessories that respond to the wearer’s environment, interactivity with technology or physiological signals taken from sensor data worn on or around the body, and emotive wearables: which describes garments, jewellery and accessories that amplify, broadcast and visualise physiological data that is associated with non-verbal communication, for example, the emotions and moods of the wearer. In my PhD research I am looking at whether such wearable devices can used to express non-verbal communication and I wanted to find out what Quantified Self Europe attendees opinions and attitudes would be to such technology, as many attendees are super-users of personal tracking technology and are also developing it.

Demo-ing EEG Visualising Pendant

My EEG Visualising Pendant is an example of my practice that I would describe as an emotive wearable, because it amplifies and broadcasts physiological data of the wearer and may provoke a response from those around the wearer. The pendant visualises the brainwave attention and meditation data of the wearer simultaneously (using data from a Bluetooth NeuroSky MindWave headset), via an LED (Light Emitting Diode) matrix, allowing others to make assumptions and interpretations from the visualisations. For example, whether the person wearing the pendant is paying attention or concentrating on what is going on around them, or is relaxed and not concentrating.

After I demonstrated the EEG Visualising Pendant, I invited attendees of my Breakout Session to participate in a discussion and paper survey about attitudes to emotive wearables and in particular feedback on the pendant. We had a mixed gender session of various ages and we had a great discussion, which covered areas such as, who would wear this device and other devices that also amplified one’s physiological data. We discussed the appropriateness of such personal technology and also thought in depth about privacy and the ramifications of devices that upload such data to cloud websites for processing, plus the positive and the possible negative aspects of data collection. Other issues we discussed included design and aesthetics of prominent devices on the body and where we would be comfortable wearing them.

I am still transcribing the audio from the session and analysing the paper surveys that were completed, overall the feedback was very positive. The data I have gathered will feed into the next iteration of the EEG Visualising Pendant prototype and future devices. It will also feed into my PhD research. Since the Quantified Self Europe Conference, I have run the same focus group three more times with women interested in wearable technology, in London. I will update my blog with my findings from the focus groups and surveys in due course, plus of course information on the EEG Visualising Pendant’s next iteration as it progresses.

Visiting CERN Open Days 2013, Geneva, Switzerland + France

Super-excited to be on the underground tour to see ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment)

For a long time it’s been an ambition of mine to visit CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, which straddles the countries of Switzerland and France. Here they use the largest scientific instruments in the world to smash particles together at the speed of light in the hope of finding the smallest known things in the universe, the particles that make up matter. “CERN” comes from the acronym for the French “Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire”, or European Council for Nuclear Research, which was founded in 1952 with the task of establishing a world-class physics research organization in Europe. When CERN was founded, its goals were around the research and understanding of what laid inside the atom, hence the term “nuclear” in the name.

Yay ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment)!

In July I discovered that CERN were putting on two open days for the public before major upgrade work, so I knew I had to get there somehow! The lottery for underground tickets to see the legendary Large Hadron Collider, detectors and other experiments were hard to get hold of, as they only randomly released a few a day over the course of a month. As you’d expect geeks from all over the world were sitting like me refreshing the page constantly, to get the chance to grab tickets each time they released a few to the public, consequently they were snapped up within a couple of minutes every time.

Totally fabulous & excited to be in the particle accelerator tube tunnel, in the LHC ring at CERN!

Eventually I was lucky and grabbed a couple of tickets for ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment). The 10,000-tonne ALICE detector is 26 meters long, 16 meters high, and 16 meters wide, and is used to study quark-gluon plasma. The detector sits in a cavern 56 meters below ground close to the village of St Genis-Pouilly in France, receiving beams from the LHC.

Super-excited to be on the underground tour to see ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment)

So in September I went to Geneva to visit CERN, as you’d expect it was a wonderful and awe-filled experience. There was so much to see and so many brilliant physicists, computer scientists and other experts who gave their time to conduct tours, give amazing talks and answer questions. Of course my highlight was going underground to see ALICE, which was breathtaking and to see part of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle accelerator ring itself which is 27 miles in diameter. Also seeing the architecture, signs and small things like the bikes and scooters that the physicists use to move around, which gave one an idea of scale.

Bikes and scooters to get around the LHC spotted on my underground tour to see ALICE

Totally fabulous & excited to be in the particle accelerator tube tunnel, in the LHC ring at CERN!

Magnetic field warning signs - there are some jolly big magnets in the LHC and other detectors at CERN

We also visited Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02) Payload Operations Control Centre (POCC). The AMS is a particle-physics detector that looks for dark matter, antimatter and missing matter from a module which is attached to the outside of the International Space Station (ISS). It also performs precision measurements of cosmic rays and 17 billion cosmic-ray events were collected in the first year! Data is received from the module on the ISS by NASA in Houston, and then it is relayed to the AMS Payload Operations Control Centre (POCC) at CERN for analysis. This experiment is run by a collaboration of 56 institutions. The detector measures 64 cubic metres and weighs 8.5 tonnes, was assembled at CERN.

At the AMS dark matter experiment talk
A model of the AMS module which is bolted onto the outside of the ISS.

CERN Control Room
Being in charge, in the CERN Control Centre 😉

It was a fab treat to have a look round CERN Control Centre (CCC), which combines the control rooms of the Laboratory’s eight accelerators, as well as the piloting of cryogenics and technical infrastructures. It was boggling to see all the control stations and monitors, I also noted all the empty champagne bottles, which together made a timeline of CERN’s milestones and achievements.

CERN Control Room

The Microcosm sculpture garden is wonderful and features some amazing examples of former CERN experiments shown as sculpture. Plus the many exhibits and kit on show which are too numerous to mention in a short blog post. There was even a music festival comprising of CERN staff bands, which was also fabulous. I didn’t get to see everything, there was far too much to fit in my one day at CERN, but here are a few of my photos of my most amazing day at CERN.

CERN staff band Music Festival
The CERN staff bands play at the Open Days music festival.

Garden of sculptures made with old bits of CERN experiments

Microcosm sculpture garden made of old CERN experiments.

Robotics Exhibition
There was also a great demonstration of robots!

At the ATLAS Globe and exhibition
My final sight of CERN was taking off from Geneva airport and seeing the Dome (above) and the CERN complex all lit up – I was very sad to leave!

Underground trip to see ALICE
Friendly physicist taking us on a tour underground.

ALICE Exhibition
ALICE exhibition

Emergency Stop - underground at CERN
One of many huge emergency stop signs underground in the particle accelerator ring.

Oh yes, I finally got my paws on a couple (well 3) official CERN t-shirts, which completed my trip as I’d been after a CERN t-shirt for many years, in fact I’d even taken to designing my own celebratory t-shirts for the switch on of the LHC back in 2008!

Rainycat celebratory LHC t-shirt designs!
Celebratory t-shirts I designed for the switch on of the LHC in 2008 – I really should do some more for the Nobel Prize announcement!

ALICE A Large Ion Collider Experiment t-shirt
In comparison, an official ALICE t-shirt from CERN circa 2013