impulse tool
equalizer for empathy
This project is about outrospective empathy and our daily interactions with strangers in the urban environment, and generating a sense of togetherness in a more and more anonymous society.

The Impulse-tool is intended to be a metaphorical crutch for empathy: an equalizer and translation machine for revealing personal body language. The impulse research device is part of a social study of how we trigger experimental empathy and raises questions about the topic by displaying the personal heartbeat.

By introducing hypothetical jewellery that displays a red heartbeat projection on the owner’s skin we get an idea how different, weird, comfortable or uncomfortable it feels if others know our real “beat”. This can trigger strange social interactions with strangers.

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I’m studying “outrospective empathy” because I want to find out if we can trigger the discussion of curiosity about strangers for rethink human relations. Through visualizing the personal heart beat to somebody else I want to research how the behavior of both participants is influenced of our have a close and honest look in their mood. In order to research how cognitive empathy can equalize a personal condition for a better interaction and raise curiosity.

“Cultivate curiosity about strangers.”

Roman Krznaric

The Impulse-Tool measures the heartbeat at the ear lobe, the finger, the wrist, or the chest and sends sensor signals the processor which transforms the sensor input into a output, making the heartbeat visual.  

In the initial research it was an LED-light heart-shaped display on the device. For the hypothetical jewellery it was a light reflected on the skin. The jewellery may take the form of earrings, necklaces, finger rings, or other elements are possible to fix somewhere at the body. The way of displaying the heartbeat can change and can be the focus of further research work.

Through the visualisation of the personal heat beat in different experimental ways, the research questions is how the behavior of both/all participants is influenced if we have a close and honest look in their mood.

How can experiential empathy equalize a conditions for a better interaction or raise curiosity?

The initial testing shows that this public initiative was generating curiosity; the blinking heart encouraged new conversations about this tool and the topic.

Within direct conversations the participants had a special experience: sometimes positive, sometimes uncomfortable. Interest in the topic of empathy and togetherness took place and awareness of the lack of togetherness in public spaces was mentioned by many people.

Besides the hypothetical tool, this project serves also as a medium for further research in the field of social sciences. Using togetherness and diversity within this project increases the potential for a more influential academic result; working with different disciplines can help to reach the target of encouraging and enabling togetherness.