Using Biosignals to Memorialize Beloved Animals

by | 18 November 2021 | Art, Conferences, Data, Interactive Techniques, Research, Students

All images were taken by the authors. Copyrights belong to the authors.

The time for mourning the loss of your fur babies is over — “ReMember: Using Biosignals to Recall Memories of Companion Animals“, an interactive installation turned SIGGRAPH 2021 Art Paper, provides bereaved pet owners with a sense of presence and connection to their companion animals by using audiovisual effects. We sat down with one of the paper’s authors, Changyoon Yi from Yonsei University, to discuss the process of creating “ReMember”. If you are a pet owner, read on to discover how you can create rituals and memorials to help with the grieving process.

SIGGRAPH: Share some background about “ReMember: Using Biosignals to Recall Memories of Companion Animals”. What inspired this project and related research?

Changyoon Yi (CY): In early 2020, one of our team members learned about cremation stones, also known as “memorial stones”, that her friend had made to commemorate her pet. We learned that many pet owners in South Korea choose to make and keep cremation stones upon pet loss. The act of keeping a form of the remains of a beloved pet and its positive implications in dealing with the grief of pet loss has captured our interest and motivated us to develop a new design that supports reminiscence and remembrance in pet loss.

SIGGRAPH: Dive into the development process when creating “ReMember”. How many people were involved? What was the end goal (or problem being solved)?

CY: We had recruited about 20 participants in total for the user study of “ReMember”. We wanted to observe how people interact with the system and receive feedback about the design.

SIGGRAPH: “ReMember” integrates audiovisual effects of the heartbeat recording of companion animals. Discuss the decision behind this. Why was sound important to the experience? How did sound inform the final paper you shared?

CY: We chose to present physiological signals on the cremation stones to enhance the feeling of life and vitality to the stones. Physiological signals represent life, vitality, and interactivity, and are also easy to collect, preserve, and transform. Among various physiological signals, we chose the heartbeat sound. Heartbeats are easy to measure and record. They are universal and contain less personal information. Also, heart rate can be an effective means of communication that influences people’s physical and social interactions, affording remote intimacy and a sense of connection. Various prior works showed that heartbeats are effective as a means of emotional communication and empathetic computing.

We wanted to further enhance these cremation stones to provide a more enriched experience for people dealing with pet loss. We wanted to prompt the feeling that the deceased pets are still present and help the former pet owners reminisce and continue their relationship with their loved ones. To achieve this goal, we took an approach to combine the physical artifacts with digitalized biosignals and added interactivity.

SIGGRAPH: How do you envision digitalized physiological signals and biological data to be used in the future?

CY: We expect that physiological signals can help preserve emotional connections and commemorate loved ones. According to the audience reception of “ReMember”, the augmentation by the heartbeat and interactivity created rich experiences for memorialization of the lost ones. We also expect that the integration of various biological data other than physiological signals may provide a more rich experience.

SIGGRAPH: What challenges did you face while developing the final experience you presented to the SIGGRAPH community within your paper?

CY: We had planned to hold the “ReMember” exhibition at a gallery on the university campus to collect a lot of user study data by recruiting many students. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only a small number of students could be invited individually to view and experience the installation.

SIGGRAPH: What advice do you have for someone looking to submit to Art Papers for a future SIGGRAPH conference?

CY: We would like to suggest representing physical artifacts in a dynamic way via integrating them with various signals and the media art technology.

Submissions for SIGGRAPH 2022 Art Papers will open soon. Visit the website for more information about SIGGRAPH’s hybrid conference in Vancouver.

Changyoon Yi is currently pursuing his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. He received B.S. degrees in electrical and electronic engineering and physics from Yonsei University. His main research interests are biomedical imaging and optics. He is also participating as a campus ministry member of The Navigators, which is a Christian missionary in Yonsei University, along with his academic career.

The other authors of “ReMember” include Juhyun Bae (producer, Busan International Film Festival), Nakkyu Baek (graduate student, Yonsei University), Jina Jung (media artist), Sunwoong Hur (engineer, Samsung Electronics), Hyun Jean Lee (artist and professor, Yonsei University), and Seung Ah Lee (assistant professor, Yonsei University).

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