Erin Gee is a Canadian artist and composer who has created a way to directly feed human emotions into music played by robots that she built and programmed herself. Her project, entitled “Swarming Emotional Pianos,” was originally inspired by a collaboration with the neurophysiologist Vaughan Macefield at the University of Western Sydney. Macefield specializes in taking electronic recordings from nerves in the human body, which Gee wanted to use to measure the physical changes that the body goes through when people feel emotions. To get these recordings, a tiny needle is inserted into the body to record from the nerves. The fact that this is quite an invasive process may have played a role in Gee’s decision to pursue another way to measure bodily changes in response to emotions. She has now taken to measuring emotional response by using finger cuffs that detect minuscule changes in the amount of sweating on an individual’s skin. She gathers further data about emotional response from a band strapped around the waist that measures changes in the rate of breathing. The computer data taken from these small changes in bodily response translates to a measure of emotions that Gee tracks and converts directly into musical signals that her robots perform musically.
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