FireFlies is an interactive multisensory experience that takes the visitor back to a 19th century tavern. FireFlies triggers the auditory, visual, olfactory, and somatosensory senses for a highly immersive experience by incorporating bright LED-lights, multiple sound effects, vibration backpacks, pushbuttons, and smoke.
The installation is designed for the Boerenkerkhof in Enschede. It revolves around the story of Hendrik Smelt, a local citizen, and his poem written about the city fire of 1862. The goal of the project is to bring alive the stories of the people buried at the cemetery while turning the place into a more attractive public park for both the locals and the tourists.
FireFlies is a homemade time-machine. At the door, the visitors’ attention is grabbed by the speaking portrait of Hendrik Smelt. He invites the guests to put on time-travelling backpacks and go back to the 19th century to attend a poem recital in his favourite tavern. Once inside, the visitors are presented with idle time-machine sounds, dim slightly blinking lights, and a big red button in the middle of the dark room. Pressing the button activates the time machine and with some accompanied vibration, visual and auditory effects, the visitors will be teleported to the cozy Haystack tavern.
Hendrik Smelt will start reciting his poem about the city fire accompanied by some tavern ambience sounds. Nine main buttons are lit up in blue colour on the surrounding walls. By pressing the button, the visitors turn on and off various looping background sound effects to compose a soundtrack for the poem. All these rhythmic background loops are sounds that can be commonly found in a tavern: clanking glasses, pouring beer, sharpening the knife, walking in clogs, snoring, and some musical instruments. When a button is pressed, also the clustered LED lights corresponding to the touched button turn red and start to flicker to simulate fireplace flames and warmth. When pushing the button again, the LEDs turn back to blue and corresponding sound loop stops.
The more buttons and, thus, sound loops are activated, the higher the valence of the poem and the louder and more intense the reciter’s voice gets. Hendrik Smelt is trying hard to be heard over the competing sounds of the tavern.
If all the buttons are activated at the same time, the poetry recital stops, and the cacophony of tavern sounds merge into the soundscape of a roaring fire with church bells, collapsing structures, screams, coughs, and animal noises. Hendrik Smelt ushers the visitors to follow him back to his time.
If the visitors do not activate all buttons at the same time and do not reach the point of the fire, Hendrik Smelt finishes his poem and thanks the audience for joining him. Therefore, the storyline of the FireFlies installation is strongly dependent on the actions of the visitors and may differ between visitors. This is an intentional design for sparking comparative discussions and wish to return again after the experience.
In any case, the user is presented with a recording of the epilogue explaining the city fire of 1862 and the Butterfly Effect – how small actions can have drastic consequences. The time machine returns to its original idle state and the experience can be started again.
FireFlies is designed to be as intuitive as possible, providing multiple affordances for interaction. The installation is created with alternative endings to fit a variety of visitor behaviours. In this way, the experience still provides a response even when no buttons are pressed.
Being a group project, all of us contributed to the process of creating the experience. However, I had some key areas of responsibility.
Physical exploration. Providing the team with various materials and objects, such as vibrator motors, LED and flashlights, cloth, blow driers, during the ideation stage to explore the possibilities of physical interaction.
Text work. Translating the poem by Hendrik Smelt from Dutch to English, writing the prologue and epilogue texts.
Audio design. Finding the sound effect loops for the background composition; cutting, slicing, mixing and matching them together to fit a certain beat; creating the multi-layered soundscape of culmination fire; recruiting a voice actor, recording and editing the poem audio; tweaking the audio to work well with the speakers used in the installation.
Vibration and smoke exploration. Experimenting with Aura haptic feedback backpacks and a smoke machine to find ways of using them in our project, setting them up correctly with regard to settings and intensity.
Logistics and construction. Borrowing (power) tools for setting up the installation, building the roof construction, boarding up the walls, organising transport for delivering the large-scale installation to the graveyard.
Rubber ducking. Being a consultant and supporting hand to our main programmer Kasper Thomas de Kruiff, coming up with the code logic for automatically switching between alternative ending scenarios.
The project-related activities helped me develop drastically in regard to both interaction and experience design, but also teamwork and individual development. The challenges we faced and overcame made the process interesting and brought us closer together as a team.
Paper review podcast:
Eva Maria Veitmaa Iza Grasselli Laura Ham Kasper Thomas de Kruiff Jeroen Stoot Dennis Vinke
“The Wildflower” is a dramatic bedtime story for grown-ups. It tells the tale of a lonely flower admired by three competing lovers – the Bee, the Bird, and the Butterfly. While the Wildflower knows she has to choose between her friends, she decides to postpone the day repeatedly.
“The Wildflower” is a sound design project done for the course Storytelling through Sound.
The radio drama is based on an original metaphorical story by me.
The majority of sounds are original recordings created for this project. The field recordings were captured using the Zoom H4n handheld microphone. Mixing and editing was fully done by me using Reaper.
The project was done according to the teachings and under the guidance of Rik Nieuwdorp. Thank you, Rik, for this amazing opportunity!
The following text is the final presentation for my storytelling class. As can be seen, I enjoy talking about intimate health even if it makes the audience uncomfortable. You should have seen the shifting and fidgeting that started in the mostly male audience at the beginning of this presentation.
Hello, I’m Eva and I am going to talk about women’s periods. Now, guys, please, relax, I know it may be difficult for you to watch me talk about lady stuff when using myself as an example, so I am going to use a fictional character instead. And I must apologise to the ladies in the audience – I am going to keep it as simple as I can so that I don’t lose the guys.
So let’s meet Mary. She is a woman and like every fertile woman, she bleeds for a week every month. Mary, like some women do, uses an application to keep track of her menstrual cycle. This enables her to have a better overview of when to expect her next shark week, also known as a period. This way, she knows to make plans accordingly or to stock up on tampons. The app provides a general analysis on what is happening to her body, too, including the mood changes.
Like when a girl bursts into tears during a really happy comedy movie. We’re never quite sure whether it is because of stress or the hormones. It’s very confusing.
Using this kind of a tracking application means that Mary has to enter information about her body temperature, vaginal discharge, mood, and activity every day. This takes time, which can be too bothersome for some women, like me. The time-consuming routine is alsowhy I, personally, do not use these applications. But Mary does, and as a result she should know exactly on what day her next period starts.
Last month Mary lived temporarily at her boyfriend’s place. He does not have a thermometer, so Mary could not mark down her body temperature, even though the application asked her to. “It’s not really that relevant anyway,” she thought. But it was, because the application bases its predictions on the data entered by Mary. By skipping on entering the body temperature, the app had less information to use for its predictions. As a result, the app-generated prognosis was inaccurate and Mary’s period surprised her a day early. It was… well… as Ron Weasley would put it: “Bloody hell!”.
This situation with Mary got me thinking. What if there was a way to improve the accuracy of these period applications? What if me and Mary and all the other women could have a real-time status report on what is going on with our bodies? What if we didn’t have to enter the information manually every day?
These questions made me come up with the concept of a new automatic data gathering technology called Lucy. Lucy is a woman’s best friend by enabling her to get a better, more accurate overview of her intimate health. The concept is inspired by current intrauterine contraceptives also known as spirals. Lucy is a tiny medical device that is placed inside the uterus. For those who don’t know, that is the place where the blood flows or baby grows.
Lucy is not actually that big, by the way. I just enlarged it in the picture to make it easier to notice.
Inside the uterus, Lucy monitors all the relevant vitals, such as the pH-level, temperature, and hormones. By being there, at the source, it obviously gets much more accurate information than it could with Mary selectively interpreting the outside symptoms. With automatic data gathering, Mary also cannot forget to enter the information. Lucy observes all the necessary vitals on its own. The gathered information is then presented to Mary using an application interface. As a result, she can get an accurate up-to-date status report. All this without any effort on the user’s side.
Of course, many questions still remain. How shall we make this secure? How will Lucy be powered? How could Lucy be as unobtrusive as possible? Which additional features could Lucy have?
Which is why I am standing here in front of you. I have a general vision and I am determined to make Lucy a reality. If you want a slice of this pie, join me to make periods less bloody annoying and revolutionise the women’s health tech industry together.