Monday, November 16, 2009

Stress Computing: Keeping track of stress before it tracks YOU down and KILLS you!

Stress is big business these days. Whether you are concerned with relieving stress, preventing stress, or monitoring stress you are sure to find plenty of products that claim to help you get to the bottom of the whole stressful stress stuff. But what exactly is stress and why are so many people concerned with it?

Stress is a biological term for the consequences of the failure of a human or animal to respond appropriately to emotional or physical threats to the organism, whether actual or imagined. It includes a state of alarm and adrenaline production, short-term resistance as a coping mechanism, and exhaustion. Common stress symptoms include irritability, muscular tension, inability to concentrate and a variety of physical reactions, such as headaches and elevated heart rate.

It covers a huge range of phenomena from mild irritation to the kind of severe problems that might result in a real breakdown of health. Signs of stress may be cognitive, emotional, physical or behavioral. Signs include poor judgment, a general negative outlook, excessive worrying, moodiness, irritability, agitation, inability to relax, feeling lonely or isolated, depressed, aches and pains, diarrhea or constipation, nausea, dizziness, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, eating too much or not enough, sleeping too much or not enough, withdrawing from others, procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities, using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax, and nervous habits (e.g. nail biting or pacing).

This is how stress effects the body in the relative short term, but what about common causes of stress and long term stress exposure?

So, here’s the top 7 Greatest Stress-creating behaviors. Find the ones that apply to you, and get to eliminating them, because these you can control.

1. Not saying “no”:
This is a particular problem for the female of the species, but men, now even you're doing it. It’s OK, in fact it’s healthy to turn down a request from family or friends, or not volunteer for that PTA project when you’re already looking for time on your schedule to eat... Take Nancy Reagan’s advice and…”just say NO” – nicely and with a brief, honest explanation (“I’m just too booked right now” or “my kids come first and I’m not spending enough time with them as it is…”) Only you can prevent over-load fires.

2. Inefficient time/task management:
Set a schedule for checking/responding to emails and voice messages, vs. doing so extensively throughout the day; this technique is used by the top business leaders. When scheduling an appointment, rather than asking “what time’s good for you?” which gives away control of your schedule, start by giving them some good times for you. Pay attention to the amount of time it takes you to complete a task, get to/from a meeting etc; you’ll be amazed by how much longer these things take than you thought, and now you can arrange your schedule more realistically.

3. Being a perpetual “fixer”:
Take off the Knight suit and stop rescuing people. It’s an unhealthy way to get attention, and, honestly, you’re really helping yourself more than actually helping them (it’s called “enabling”). If it is your responsibility, know what is in and out of your control so you don’t spin your wheels working on things that you cannot possibly influence.

4. Not scheduling time for rejuvenation:
Burn out is guaranteed when you don’t make taking time to rest/rejuvenate as much a part of your schedule as getting the laundry done. It is not something that you can take or leave – it is a mandatory requirement for both your body and your mind, and ignoring that law of physics will not change it.

5. No exercise:
The human body requires regular physical movement much like an automobile requires regular running to maintain it in good working order. You cannot remain sedentary and expect to feel good. Change your daily habits from using the least amount of physical exertion to using the most (taking the stairs whenever possible, walking into the bank vs. using the drive-thru, etc.), or you purchase one a large work-out ball to use at home, particularly while watching TV (good for everything from sit-ups to leg strengthening), But, keep your personal “vehicle” sitting in the proverbial driveway and you will soon be taking it to the salvage lot….

6. Making “mountains out of molehills”:
Otherwise and more currently known as “sweating the small stuff”, This behavior is quite toxic for you, and a real relationship buster with those you love. Learn to discern the difference between what’s truly important and worthy of concern, and what’s worthy of a smile, a shrug, and moving on. Begin by getting feed-back (from people whose opinion you trust) on when you tend to do this most often, and start with those and similar situations.

7. “Should’ing” all over yourself (and others…):
I think “should” shouldn’t be in the dictionary… I mean, really, what does “should” actually indicate? “I should be better at that….” Huh?! Either you can be better at that or you can’t (for whatever clear reason); you will be better at that or you won’t (depending on your level of motivation or present capabilities). Thinking “should” is a set-up for a no-win; an expectation with no clear determination of whether the desired outcome is doable in actuality. Be clear about what you or others actually “can” or “won’t” do vs. what they “should” do, and you’ll be on much more solid ground.

As for the long term effects of stress...

Stress can significantly affect many of the body's immune systems, as can an individual's perceptions of, and reactions to, stress. The term psychoneuroimmunology is used to describe the interactions between the mental state, nervous and immune systems, as well as research on the interconnections of these systems. Immune system changes can create more vulnerability to infection, and have been observed to increase the potential for an outbreak of psoriasis for people with that skin disorder.

Chronic stress has also been shown to impair developmental growth in children by lowering the pituitary gland's production of growth hormone, as in children associated with a home environment involving serious marital discord, alcoholism, or child abuse.

Studies of female monkeys at Wake Forest University (2009) discovered that individuals suffering from higher stress have higher levels of visceral fat in their bodies. This suggests a possible cause-and-effect link between the two, wherein stress promotes the accumulation of visceral fat, which in turn causes hormonal and metabolic changes that contribute to heart disease and other health problems.

Over the long term, distress can lead to diminished health and/or increased propensity to illness; to avoid this, stress must be managed.

Great! We already have so many things to worry about these days(ever increasing our stress levels), now we have to worry about too much stress. How much of stress monitoring can be done autonomously by a wearable device, or does the psychological nature of stress require a higher self awareness for effective monitoring/management? Quite a few companies tout wonder devices that aim to monitor and then help alleviate stress, but what exactly do they monitor and do they work at relieving stress?

Full Body Stress Monitor
Firstbeat HEALTH: heartbeat monitor
Bio-Q Ring

Monday, November 9, 2009

An Argument for Existential Computing

I think the dedication of attention to details of ones person is good for humanity. I do not think that the integration of computers is necessary to do so. However, I do think that computers allow for us to capture the data we want to pay attention to while not needing to actively participate in the actual logging and sensing of data. That said, the logging of self data should lead the individual to some conclusion about priorities, at which point the person is required to spend time reflecting on the outcome of the data, and ultimately change themselves in a way that better positions them in life. For example, one could log stress data(galvanic skin response and heart rate) while commuting to and from work, trying out different routes and departure times. But if once the data is collected and the person refuses to look at the data or respond appropriately then the logging of data has served no purpose. But this is obvious, I suppose what I am trying to say is that the active participation of the person in reviewing the data is as, if not more, important than the logging of the data. The active participation in reviewing the data conveys a willingness to change ones habits, or a fluidity in the brains make up for change. Why do I think that paying attention to self data is good for humanity? I don't really, what I do think is good is the repositioning of priorities to facilitate happiness in yourself and others. The decision to change ones priorities from quickness of commute to least stressful of commute has implications that will cascade down past the individual. The fundamental decision to value ones personal mental health over ones ability to pack as much into one day as possible also has the effect of restructuring values in other areas of a persons life. Good uses for data logging include times in which the person is under the assumption that an activity is inherently something, and so executes the activity because of the desired outcome, ie. I watch TV when I get home at night to relax. If one were to log data while watching TV after coming home and then log data while doing other activities, one could get a better idea of what is actually relaxing and not just sedating. To a certain extent, paying close attention to data logging allows us as individuals to create new values and let go of old ones given to us by our family, or at least the possibility could arise. But why, what is the reason to spend time reviewing details of your life? From my examples I immediately think of health reasons, less stress has been proven to better on your body and mind. Also, if some how we are all connected and a collective conscious does exists, then I think it is better to have a happy, calm, and caring collective conscious over an angry, nervous, and apathetic collective conscious.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Processing Maquette for my light sculpture

I am currently working on a 4x4 ft light sculpture for Danny Rozin's "Project Studio" class. The sculpture uses 40 servos to move 40 arms that each have 2 RGB LEDs at the tips. I am most interested in the way the light from the LEDs will mix together on the canvas, especially since I can control both the color of the light and it position. I uploaded a Processing sketch I made to visualize patterns and color sequences. This version focuses on movement patterns and not color. Drag the mouse on the screen to change the viewing angle.

Estrella Intersects the Plane from Matt Richard on Vimeo.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Foot Sensors for Longboarding Data

This week the goal was to make our data logging devises mobile if not wearable. I was unable to become fully detached from my computer for the data logging. However, I was able to make it mobile by using a small netbook to log the data, and keep it stored in my backpack while I went for a nice ride around Washington Square Park. The values were sent from the Arduino via serial communication, and Processing listened for the values and wrote them to a CSV(comma separated values) file. Next, I stuck the file into a program written by Dan O'Sullivan that graphs that data and allows the viewer to scroll through the data. If you look closely, you will see that my right foot makes more jumps than my left foot. This is because I push my longboard with my right foot :) Moving forward, I would like to find a better sensor for a more stable and wider range values. I found that the FSRs that I used were almost maxed out even when standing.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Depth Time: adventures in finger painting

Sue Syn and I collaborated on a project for Dan O'Sullivan's "The Rest of You" class, in which we wore ultra sonic range finders on our wrists while we painted with our hands. The values that were recorded from the sensors were then used to render information that was captured from a camera that was recording our movements. Both the actual footage and the data augmented video were displayed together. The result is a time lapse record of our movements and color choices, allowing the user to watch the painting develop and time pass. The idea was to make the artist and viewer aware of spatial relationships that are not considered important or taken for granted. The hope being that a greater understanding of one's subconscious might come to light. While I was pleased with the result, I have been making strides toward a better mapping of the depth data than just value. The next iteration of this idea will have the painting pushed and pulled in 3D space based on the values from the range finder.

Depth Time from Matt Richard on Vimeo.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Herpes a la Face Tracking

For my final in Nature of Code and Computational Cameras, I worked on creating an app that would allow users to take pictures of themselves or their friends. The image is scanned for a face. If a face is detected, simple rules of proportion are used to determine the basic location of the mouth. After the mouth is found, a script that mimics the look and feel of oral herpes is applied to that area of the picture. The resultant image is gross and funny. I also created another version that turns a portrait picture into a mugshot, includes criminal information and a lone teardrop tattoo. Recently I have been doing a lot of image augmentation. I think that it could prove to be very popular if I could only get it out to the masses. Further ideas include, fake family vacation pictures and fake historical pictures. It seems that everyone loves neat pictures of themselves, and frankly, they don't even have to be real.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Camera Futura

I was asked to think about the future of cameras and how they will impact or lives. I came up with a few ideas, some more distant then others.

Short Term
I think image stabilization could easily be improved by allowing the user to hold the shutter button down, but only firing the shutter when an accelerometer in the camera says that the camera is appropriately stable.

Medium Term
Through advances in image pattern recognition and optimization, new picture taking modes could exist that search for classical balance and proportion. Only when a composition presents itself that includes 20 golden rectangles can an image be captured. This would help amateur photographers better understand the principles of composition.

Long Term
The ability to compare dimensions, specifically in relation to your body, seems like a useful piece of information to be included in the photo. Which makes me wonder of the future of the photograph itself. In the future cameras will most assuredly capture information in a three dimensional format. Probably through the use of stereoscopic vision like our own eyes. This would weave the extra information into the display rather than simply including it in the Metadata.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Color Tracking Fun! part 3

Back at it with color tracking and the gang. This time are sights are set on driving the streets of NYC in a virtual car. We had several immediate problems that made it impossible to work outside. It began raining and we were using an auto gain webcam which was making our lovely neon pink squares appear white.

We grabbed a better camera and headed to upper floors of Tisch to shoot in a larger location. The code was riddled with problems and made it nearly impossible to get satisfactory shots. Nevertheless, Winslow had an idea brewing and was able to stitch together a story of a class field trip.

Wicked Awesome!!! from Winslow Porter on Vimeo.

Elffervescence made a debut in the space scene, this time wearing a black background.

Angela's awesome documentation again.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Color Tracking Fun! part 2

The following week we all met again and decided to have a dance party. We invited some of our friends and danced in front of a short throw projector projecting party videos from amongst the ISH. Music by Mylo, "I'm back".

MASKPARTY featuring Coconut Horse, ODB, Lemonhead, and Mario from Winslow Porter on Vimeo.

This time the code was changed to calculate the angle between the two green squares and display the images of various heads onto our bodies. We created a make shift head gear device out of black foam and rubber bands, to which the green squares were attached.

Another inside look by Angela Chen.

Color Tracking Fun!

After working with blobs and the OpenCV library to create "Granpa Loves Valentine's Day", Winslow Porter and I combined forces with Meredith Hasson and Angela Chen to tackle color tracking.

Using Dan O’Sullivan's color tracking code as a starting point, we began to develop a simple and sometimes reliable way of determining the location of two green squares from the pixel data of a webcam. From the location of each square we can then determine the distance between the squares and even the angle of a line drawn between the two squares.

Gone Fishing Debugging from Matt Richard on Vimeo.

But what to do with such a thing? After a quick brainstorm, the act of fish-story telling, specifically the phrase, "a [fish] this big!" would be captured in augmented video and a simple story would be told.

Catch of the Day from Winslow Porter on Vimeo.

The code can be found here along with an awesome inside look from Angela Chen.

Rainbow Waves et wake

Awhile ago I played around with Dan Shiffman's SineWave processing applet. I only adjusted a few lines of code but was able to create complex patterns. I added a fade by drawing a rectangle over everything at a low transparency. I changed the color mode to HSB(Hue Saturation Brightness). The warping effect of all of the ellipses is because their positions determine their size and color. The striation was created using modulus.

When I want to show a Processing sketch online I always upload it to OpenProcessing. This sketch became popular very quickly, which I attribute to an awesome thumbnail. A few weeks after I uploaded Rainbow Waves it was added to the "featured ones", a goal I wanted to achieve since September of 2008.

I then created two other sketches shortly thereafter that were inspired by a combination of Rainbow Waves with a classmates homework and color sequencing from the color_tile series I worked on last November.

Marios Color Wave


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Generative Disease: Cold Sores II

For midterm in Dan Shiffman's Nature of Code, I chose to create generative cold sores. Currently the sores are distributed using Perlin noise. My next step is to incorporate hierarchy into the distribution.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Generative Disease: Cold Sores

*Test image in photoshop

For my midterm in Nature of Code I am going to attempt to simulate the look of cold sores on pictures of my friends. Here is a break down of the steps I think will be necessary to create a realistic effect:

1. Create a father point and assign an amount of energy. The amount of energy will determine how large it will be and how many children it can have.

2. Create children points that surround the father point. Children points energy levels should be smaller than the fathers energy level. Some children can have children of their own if they are large enough.

3. The energy level of each point will determine the size of a circle like shape that emanates from the point. The circles of all the points will be averaged together and a blob shape will be drawn.

4. Repeat step 3 but decrease the energy level each time. At the same time, change the color so that the resultant shape defines the form of a blister.

5. Determine the direction of the light source in the image and use that vector to add shadow and then highlights.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Worm Boarding at Cottontail Hill

Worm Boarding at Cottontail Hill from Matt Richard on Vimeo.

This video has been sitting on my computer for far too long. It was recorded in January of 2006, and the sport of Worm Boarding lasted only for two days.

Upon finding a water heater box in a suburb of Washington DC, Adam Colton and I attempted to ride inside the box down hills. The first night we had no clue how to balance together and we were only able to travel 20 feet before crashing into a curb, rolling over, or just laughing too hard to continue. This did not deter us from understanding the mechanics of what would become known as "Worm Boarding".

On the second day of trial runs we made a breakthrough in balance technique. Undoubtedly Adam was better at steering, so he would lead. I was pretty good I being still and didn't mind not seeing where I was going, so I was a natural for the rear of the "Worm". A few more runs on lesser neighborhood hills and it was time to do what we knew we must, attempt to ride down Cottontail Hill from the top! This hill is so steep that when it snows it is well-nigh impossible to drive up. Adam C. being who he is, grabbed his camera and Adam S. provided a steady hand in filming.

We tried several times to no avail. Sadly, the box did not live past that day and no one has ever "Worm Boarded" since. I encourage all of you in trying to ride down a hill in a box. Since you are sitting, you have less distance to fall which means that it doesn't hurt, plus the box does a lot to save your skin. Be sure to wear clothes that cover, and always wear a helmet.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Granpa looks for OpenCV in the kitchen

Winslow Porter and I played with the new OpenCV library for Processing. Thankfully Granpa was around in the kitchen for us to Capture.

Grandpa Loves Valentines Day from Winslow Porter on Vimeo.

We also found footage from 1969 of a van making an illegal U-turn in San Francisco.

Rainbow Image Detection from Winslow Porter on Vimeo.
This effect was created by Andy Best in a tutorial he wrote for processing's OpenCV library. You can check out the tutorial here.

Then I stayed up playing with the sketch until I went to class. I did capture an amazing smile though.

All-nighter smile from Matt Richard on Vimeo.

Pictures from early on in the evening.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Nature of Code week 3: Vectors and Forces

Created a simple simulation of fish swimming in a circle. Then I worked on adjusting the look and feel to create a nicer looking visualization. Click the links to see them in action.

Fish Tornado
Fish Tornado 2
Fish Tornado 3

Monday, February 2, 2009

Hue is New York?

I am interested in using cameras to gather color data about New Yorkers' wardrobes. The information could be used to create the ideal outfit for a specific part of town or to create a wonderful portrait of the city.