lRecent converging evidence in different disciplines has shown the significance of the body in different facets of our lived experience including emotion and thought processes, — areas which were earlier assumed to be predominantly controlled through the brain. Body in-the-loop is a concept that emphasizes the role of the body in designing experiences and applications targeted towards relaxation and cognitive enhancement. Through these experiences, the user’s bodily consciousness is projected into a dynamic physical media; The users interact with the media to affect intentional changes into the projected body states, which are in turn projected back into their physical bodies. The experience aims to “loop” the users’ bodily consciousness between the projections in the dynamic media and then back to their physical bodies for a positive effect. The transfer of bodily consciousness is achieved through a combination of methods in mixed reality design (body pose sensing, body ownership illusions,) wearable design (haptic actuation,) and physiological sensing.
As an instance of the above concept, the meditative body painting experience allows users to “paint” on their bodies from a third-person perspective. They see their virtual body through a Kinect-projector arrangement and paint on it by extending an arm and moving it like a paintbrush. As they touch the different body parts by painting in the Kinect-projector media, they receive corresponding heat feedback on their physical body. In this process, they become aware of the sensations in different body parts and begin to affect them with intentionality (as exercised through the painting gestures.) The experience allows the users to act on a media projection of their body and in turn affect their physical body, as explained above for the body-in-the-loop concept.
This design takes inspiration from the experience of a body-scanning meditation. Therein, the practitioners focus on their different body parts, become aware of the existing sensations in them; This inward-looking behavior (referred to as interoception) helps resolve any discomfort and promotes relaxation. The mindful body painting experience aims to manifest the cognitive task of focusing on the different body parts into the physical agency of the user’s hand movements while painting. Heat feedback has been previously experimented with to assist interoception. Hence, in this case, it supplements intentional hand gestures to help the users gain awareness of different parts of their bodies.
As in body scanning meditation, the effectiveness of the body painting experience depends on how mindful the users remain: whether they relax and focus on the experience, or their mind wanders to other thoughts and intermittent chatter. In the recent past, biofeedback regarding such mental activity (as sensed using an EEG sensor) has been tested to help subjects maintain focus. This biofeedback is integrated into the design of body painting wherein the users’ relaxation (mellow) controls suitable parameters of the painting animation. This mapping aims to keep the users in-the-moment and help them focus on the body painting experience.