Hearts in Orbit

People's Choice Semi-Finalist

Hearts in Orbit made it to the People's Choice Semi-Finals (Top 25)

Space Station

Out-of-this-world fashion with function: clothing or accessories for earth or space wear!

Every space traveler – even the robotic ones – should feel? their very best during the journey, infused with the very best data and technology available. Earthlings can follow suit. Design a space data-tech-fashion wearable in the form of clothing or accessories that will collect or distribute data and technology in the following categories:

Design for Interconnectivity (staying more connected to team, community, and tools)

  • enhance the work/life experience of humans and/or capabilities of robots  

Design for Health (biometrics, physical and emotional health, and/or environmental alerts)

  • maintain or improve the health and well-being of the human
  • provide early warning for unhealthy environmental factors (air quality, radiation, outgassing, temperature)

Design for Entertainment (sights, sounds, music, activity)

  • enhance the human experience whether during work or play

The aim of this solution is to propose a body monitoring system for astronauts that adds an emotional value to scientific data.

It is designed to be comfortable, non invasive and very easy to use, yet providing physiological measurement data of high quality.

The system consists of:

  • traditional sensors (ECG, EMG, PPG, stethophone, ballistocardiography, respiration, EDA, and even EEG) ;
  • a small wearable device (called “babypod") that gathers data from all the sensors on the astronaut’s body (via wires or bluetooth) ;
  • an extensible, velcro-based thoracic belt with two layers that allows to fix the sensors and press them against the body, and to attach the babypod ;
  • a data storage device (called “motherpod”) placed in the vicinity of the astronaut and that receives data wirelessly from one or several babypods.

Just this very hardware configuration has been designed taking into account:

  • the desire to simplify the process of installing a body monitoring system on oneself ;
  • the necessity to create non-invasive and comfortable systems in order to make measurements during sleep without waking up the patient ;
  • the incentive to go wireless when possible in order to reduce the weight of equipment needed for an ISS mission ;
  • the need to avoid as much as possible cosmic radiation exposure increase by putting most of the electronics (the motherpod) far from the astronaut's body ;
  • the proposal to standardise the hardware interface (all sensors are plugged to the babypod through 3.5mm jack - which has many advantages: it is very robust, directionless, and extremely simple to plug and unplug) ;
  • the importance of reusability in a context where washing clothes is not possible (if electronics were in the fabric of a garment, they would need to be thrown away regularly, increasing the amount of components needed. So instead of designing a technical cloth the initial choice was rather to improve and augment the design of a classic respiratory belt).

Even the name of the devices (baby and motherpods) has been thought to create a slight emotional trigger.

But the added value and hopefully the greatest innovation of the solution resides in the way data is distributed.

Both babypods and motherpods have direct audio outputs (also standard 3.5mm jack).

Astronauts can plug earphones to babypods and listen to their own heartbeat (live).
This is meant:

  • to offer an alternative to music or earplugs when sleeping in the noisy ISS environment ;
  • to help them relax by using techniques of cardiac coherence self regulation.

Astronauts can plug earphones also to motherpods and then similarly listen to the heartbeat of their colleagues (live, or past recordings).
The motherpod screen can also display a graphic rendering of body variables destined only to be visually pleasant (non-scientific, artistic data visualisation).
The idea behind these motherpod features is to propose an innovative way to relax by creating an emotional bond between astronauts.
These audio and visual sources are meant to be beautiful, decorative and relaxing, but while also having a meaning.

Last but not least, the motherpods have an export feature that makes it easy for astronauts to generate a sound file from a heartbeat recording, in order to share it with people on Earth.
Astronauts suffer from loneliness and from being far from loved ones. Sharing your heartbeat with your husband, wife, partner or children is both instinctive (heartbeat is the first sound we hear in human existence) and very emotional (it is associated to love in all cultures).
This solution aims to create a simple, easy to use and unprecedented way to stay connected to one’s relatives back on Earth and make them feel you’re closer to them.

This is Hearts in Orbit.


Further development of the project could include:

  • sync motherpods over network so the data is replicated on each (double advantage: makes it possible to listen to any recording from any motherpod, and creates de facto data backups) ;
  • design the storage capacity of the motherpods so they can keep archives over long periods of time, allowing astronauts to listen to the heartbeat of other astronauts that have already left the station ;
  • not only heartbeat audio but also respiration (send your respiration sound to your partner on Earth) ;
  • create a NASA-curated website that would be a gallery of astronauts “heartbeats”, organised for instance along two dimensions: over time and by distance to Earth (to raise empathy and awareness by Earthlings for the human hearts beating in orbit and beyond) ;
  • create optic fiber fabric clothes that also display, like motherpods, artistic rendering of body variables ;
  • Earth applications: reuse the system to do non-invasive body monitoring on Earth (e.g. to investigate sleep quality).
Resources Used


The solution design could never have been possible without the precious help of:

- Dr Andreas Sonderegger, Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Fribourg (CH)

- Dr Jean-Marc Vesin, Senior Scientist leading the ASPG, Applied Signal Processing Group of the EPFL, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (CH).

- Dr Cédric Duchêne, Electronics and Signal Processing Engineer, EPFL+ECAL Lab, (CH)


- On the availability of wireless technologies (WiFi, Bluetooth) in the ISS


- On the problem of clothing weight and possible solutions

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1084.html, NASA, 2014, 2015

- On cardiac coherence

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4179616/, NCBI/NLM, 2014

- On heartbeats synchronisation between physically close people

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23107993, NCBI/NLM, 2013
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21910541, NCBI/NLM, 2012

- On the effects of microgravity on the human heart

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1919.html, NASA, 2016
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/975.html, NASA, 2015
http://www.space.com/25452-zero-gravity-affects-astronauts-hearts.html, Space.com, 2014

- On the various sources of space radiation and their effects on the human body

http://srag.jsc.nasa.gov/SpaceRadiation/What/What.cfm, NASA, 2014
http://srag.jsc.nasa.gov/SpaceRadiation/Why/Why.cfm, NASA, 2014
http://www.asc-csa.gc.ca/eng/sciences/osm/radiation.asp - Canadian Space Agency, 2006
http://www.issibern.ch/PDF-Files/Spatium_11.pdf, ISSI, 2003

- On experiments made in the ISS regarding the effects of cosmic rays on human health

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/137.html, NASA, 2006-2007, 2015

- On the effects of space radiation on electronics, and the possible solutions

http://www.datarespons.com/electronics-in-space/, Data Respons ASA
http://lws-set.gsfc.nasa.gov/space_radiation.html, NASA, 2016
http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.g..., NASA, 2004
http://llis.nasa.gov/lesson/824, NASA, 1999
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation_hardening, Wikipedia

- On experimental physiological measurement techniques and hardware

[NASA experiment on fabric] http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research..., NASA, 2014, 2016
[wireless wearable dry sensors] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21191158, NCBI/NLM, 2010
[performance of SCG for heart sound signal recording in noisy scenarios] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/293807690_Performance_analysis_of_seismocardiography_for_heart_sound_signal_recording_in_noisy_scenario, Journal of Medical Engineering & Technology, 2016
[Quartz Crystal Microbalance sensor for respiration monitoring] http://www.mdpi.com/1424-8220/11/1/1177, MDPI, 2010
[combination of SCG, ECG and respiration] http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijbi/2014/690124/, International Journal of Biomedical Imaging, 2014
[combination of SCG, ECG and respiration] http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/0967-3334/33/10/1643, IOP Science, 2012
[simultaneous extraction of respiratory and cardiac gating signals] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/266027382_An_Accelerometer-Based_Method_for_Simultaneous_Extraction_of_Respiratory_and_Cardiac_Gating_Signals_for_Nuclear_Medicine_Imaging, Åbo Akademi University, 2014
[wireless EDA wristband sensor design research] http://1064134004.n419409.test.prositehosting.co.uk/?project=affectiva-research, Affectiva (MIT spin-off)
[ambulatory monitor devices] http://www.medgadget.com/2014/01/ihealth-launches-new-wristworn-pulse-oximeter-ambulatory-heart-and-blood-pressure-monitors-at-ces-2014.html, iHealth

- On classical methods of physiological measurement

[electromyography] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electromyography, Wikipedia
[electroencephalography] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electroencephalography, Wikipedia
[respiratory belt instructions] http://www2.vernier.com/booklets/rmb.pdf, Vernier

- On existing commercial products for physiological measurement


[mechanical respiratory belt] http://www.biopac.com/knowledge-base/respiration-recording/, Biopac
[piezo-electric respiratory belt] http://www.adinstruments.com/products/respiratory-belt-transducer, AD Instruments
[air pumped respiratory belt] http://www.vernier.com/products/sensors/rmb/, Vernier
[DIY respiratory belt] http://www.instructables.com/id/Quick-and-dirty-Respiration-Sensor/, Instructables.com
[use of thermistor in conjunction with piezo-electric respiratory belt] http://www.lemg.org/thermistor-piezo-belt, Laryngeal Electromyography (lemg.com)
[standard ECG device] http://www.omegahealthcare.co.uk/Welch_Allyn_CardioPerfect_PC_based_Pocket_ECG.htm, Welch Allyn
[examples of standard PPG and ECG devices, wired and wireless] https://www.biof.com/onlinestore/heartscanner/Hardware.asp
[bluetooth heartrate only belt] http://www.qathlete.com/e_products_devices_hr.html
[compact bluetooth ECG recorder] http://www.biocomsoft.com/biocom-6000, Biocom
[low-cost compact wireless ECG] http://www.isansys.com/en/products/sensors, Isansys
[wireless thumb ECG] https://www.bewell-connect.com/fr/produit/myecg/, Visiomed


[smartwatch heart monitoring] https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204666, Apple
[smartwatch heartbeat sharing] https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204833, Apple
[fitness oriented wireless ECG thoracic wearable] https://www.getqardio.com/qardiocore-wearable-ecg-ekg-monitor-iphone/, Qardio

- Examples of multimodal sensor modules

[multimodal wireless sensor module with unique standard input] http://www.shimmersensing.com/news/exg-module-now-available-from-shimmer-6, Shimmer
[DIY sensor module] https://www.cooking-hacks.com/documentation/tutorials/ehealth-biometric-sensor-platform-arduino-raspberry-pi-medical

- Samples of physiological signals visualisations


[ECG and SCG visualised as probabilities] https://plot.ly/~plotenthusiast123/1218/probability-im-ao-vs-probability-ac-acm/, Plotly
[ECG vs SCG] https://plot.ly/~plotenthusiast123/460/ecg-vs-scg/, Plotly
[ECG, SCG and Heart Rate, AO and AC Envelopes] https://plot.ly/~plotenthusiast123/797/ecg-hr-envelope-scg-ao-envelope-systole-profile-ac-envelope-diastole-profile/, Plotly


[Heartrate as water waves] http://www.semageek.com/heartwave-visualiser-les-battements-de-votre-coeur-avec-des- vagues/
[Heartrate sync art] http://sensoree.com/artifacts/heartsync/

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