Soom

An exploration of breath and meditation.
Soom means breath in Korean.

 

 

Not everyone enjoys meditating with their eyes closed. For some, the darkness and isolated focus on the breath makes it ever more difficult to calm down.

Soom is a meditative light box that helps the user visualize their breathing. A pulse sensor installed in a comforting-to-hold sphere measures the user's heart rate and outputs a responsive light pattern according to the measurement.

 
 
 
 

Light Sequences

 

I played around with several light patterns before deciding on a fade in / sequential color change / fade out. I decided to use blue and pink tones to maintain a calming aura. The lights change color one by one during the second sequence at adjusted speeds, depending on the user's heart rate.

 
 
 

Inspiration

 
 James Turrell at the Guggenheim Museum, 2013
 

During the initial phases, my idea began as a mood escape tent: a place where you would be surrounded by sound and visuals that will effectively calm you down, or maybe even pump you up.

As I was doing research, I discovered James Turrell's Light Reignfall (below right) and felt validated in my idea. I also looked into sound bath meditations, sound frequencies, and how they could correspond to light and color.

 
 
 

Adding, Then Removing Sound

 

I decided to scale down the idea to a light box — one that's large enough that the light emanating from it would wash over you with some tangible impact. I originally wanted to explore light & sound's effect on a user's pulse, but my classmate gave me a simpler idea: What if you could play back someone's heartbeat at a slower or faster rate and see what it does to someone's pulse? She told me about a performance she participated in where she would put her finger to someone else's pulse and her own, and found her own syncing up with that other person. 

I added a sound feedback of the user's heart beat to allow them to hear their own progress as they followed the light meditation. After testing however, I learned that the sound distracted from the breathing exercise. It would make more sense to have users learn their heart rate changes after their experience, and let them focus on their breath following the light.

 
 
 

Did It Work?

 

Kind of. It was easier to see how breathing quickly raises a user's heartbeat than to see how breathing slowly calms it down. The pulse sensor itself was very sensitive and not always accurate so I would need to utilize a different sensor to measure pulse. For next steps, I would also need to incorporate different speeds to the fadein-hold-fadeout exercise that is responsive to the person's current pulse — currently it is a specific speed that I set ahead of time. I also need to remove the sound of the active heartbeat that is currently distracting from the exercise.