Ru; Heartbeat Pup for Anxious Children
Ru is a soft good built for overly anxious children. The pup acts as a grounding mechanism to manage anxiety by creating a tangible heartbeat to anchor its companion's awareness back to the environment.
Anxiety can be a nerve-wracking and fearful thing for young kids, Ru's goal is not to cure anxiety but to provide a way for parents to help their children find calm again. The goal of this project was to develop a working prototype of this product through my own means of physical computing and programming.
Anxiety can be a scary part of childhood life. Whether a child has a disorder or experiences anxiety less frequently, research shows that untreated anxiety leads to a higher risk of poor performance in school, missed out social experiences, and strained connections within the family.
To create a product that facilitates care for anxiety in young children.
As kids deal with new experiences and moments, they often find comfort in their personal objects and the people around them. In this case, the teddy bear (an already common comfort object) is a great opportunity to push forward how we can help overly anxious children as they go about our confusing world.
I especially feel there is a tangible opportunity with the teddy bear to create a grounding mechanism. Grounding mechanisms are known to help reorient a person back to their body and present- and can be helpful in managing overwhelming feelings or intense anxiety.
Ru takes in the pulse of its human companion through the pulse sensor on its nose.
Through arduino and programming, it creates a physical and auditory heartbeat that mirrors the child's heartbeat. (This is done by running electricity through a speaker where the moving cone becomes the heartbeat).
If the child's heartbeat is detected to be over a resting heart rate, the animal’s own heartbeat will gradually lower until its own heart rate and the child’s heart rate is resting.
This project is a mash of physical computing and programming alongside prototyping. Below you can find a bit more detail to how it was made and the process.
- Arduino Uno
- Pulse Sensor (reading infrared from skin)
- Battery (9 volts)
* getting the pulse to read properly was a tricky thing.. those sensors were way noisier than expected.
originally, I placed a speaker within and underneath cloth to prototype how the heartbeat might feel inside a teddy bear. This helped me determine the experience and use of the speaker.
A lot of the programming challenges came from trying to understand and process the signals coming from the pulse sensor (please note, I'm a pretty novice programmer, I view it as a means to prototype my ideas, not to fully develop shippable products).
I was luckily able to find well-documented resources at https://pulsesensor.com/ that worked through the signal processing beyond the scope of my own capabilities.