Prototyping, Interaction design, Arduino & sensors

Team Member

Nina Prakash, Frank Andujar, Isabel Rozario


Project lead, Main prototyper, Concept generation, Video production

Ari - a mental health companion

Traditional mental health apps are passive methods of alleviating stress and anxiety. Ari is a non-intrusive, interactive mental health companion. As opposed to meditation apps where users need to initiate a meditation session, Ari continually and passively listens to a user’s heart rate. Upon noticing a significant increase in heart rate, Ari guides users to match their breathing pattern to its pulsing light to bring awareness back to the user’s body.
This project is part one of a series of project I would like to work on. This project series focuses on blurring the physical and digital spaces. Ari is a product that translates biometric (physical) data into digital data that controls the behavior of a lamp. The biometric data then is manifested through the lamp.

Product Video


Concept development

In a situation of high stress and frustration, people often forget to breathe, which can lead to an anxiety or panic attack. A gentle reminder to focus on the feelings of their body can help people relax and find peace in their mind. Currently, phone apps like Headspace and Calm provide mental health support passively. Users have to become aware of their symptom first before choosing to use these apps to address their discomfort. With busy schedules, it is often hard to find time to meditate using these apps. These apps do not provide real-time mitigation and relief, therefore only effective during the aftermath.
Ari presents a proactive solution that assists the users before they experience anxiety attack. Ari is a lamp with awareness. It blends in with the ambient environment but silently listens to users’ heart rate. Ari interacts with the user with its breathing light that effectively occupies user’s peripheral attention and guides the user to match their breathing pattern with Ari. When changed to night mode, Ari also becomes a sleep lamp that helps you rewind.

concept development

Hardware + Software Prototyping

Initially we were hoping to make separate modules for the heartrate monitor device and Ari itself, and then we would use bluetooth to connect the two modules. However, we could not get the tiny arduino to connect to our laptops. Then we decided to use our backup option, which is to connect everything onto an arduino uno.
To show a proof of concept, I quickly did an arduino sketch that connects the pulse sensor reading to the neopixel ring.
And then we added a switch and potentiometer to allow a more dynamic interaction.


After everything works on a breadboard, I soldered the electronics parts together. Afterwards, we attempted to power Ari using a LiPo battery, instead of connecting to a laptop. We ran into some issue with the voltage regulator and went with a laptop in the end.

Form Prototyping

Initially, we wanted to 3D print an orb out of translucent material. However, due to time constraint, we just used a commercial glass orb instead. Then we laser cutted the base of Ari out of wood. The glass orb with the wooden base turned out to look very nice together.
We then added some cotton fiber to create a calming ambiance.


Future Work

Given the limited time, Ari has yet to include some functions that were part of the concept development. I would like to look into how to obtain heartrate and activeness data from a device like Fitbit. And I would like to allow the physical form to have more affordance for touch interaction. For example, I would like to experiment with different material for the lampshade and makes the base less bulky and more portable.