Echoes

Project: Echoes
Partners: King’s College London, University of Maastricht

Can we use existing technologies to enable people to hear their own heartbeats at home? Cellule, KCL and the University of Maastricht explored this idea through the Echoes project, developing an app to explore the constraints of smartphones when recording heart sounds.

Year

2020

Sector

Medical imagery

Discipline

App design
3D graphics
Sound technology
Real time interaction
Data science

Ethos

Symbolic
Interactive
Playful
Real time
Accessible

“We all carry around microphones every day in the form of smartphones”

Usually, when we think about listening to someone’s heart, we imagine a doctor pressing a stethoscope to a patient’s chest. But we all carry around microphones every day in the form of smartphones – couldn’t we use these to listen, too?

We know that a person’s heartbeat can give important information about their cardiac health. We also know that people can’t always attend routine appointments to track long-term conditions, or afford specialised medical equipment for use at home. So, we designed Echoes to gather data and find out whether phones’ inbuilt microphones are up to the task of at-home heart recording.

“The heartbeats themselves then began to feel more like music or poetry”

Echoes is an app which captures the sound of your heart. Designed to be intuitive and easy to use, its clean lines and colour palette making the experience meditative rather than medicalised. When considering how to visualise the sound of a heartbeat, we decided against showing a realistic anatomical heart, which felt cold and medical. Instead, we took a more abstract and stylised approach, using a 3D shape which was reminiscent of a heart. This made it feel more like a game, or even a visual focus for meditation or contemplation. The heartbeats themselves then began to feel more like music or poetry, rather than only a reflection of biology.

“Echoes enables everyone to feel connected to their body and become familiar with their own heart sounds.”

Working in collaboration with cardiac patients selected through the British Heart Foundation and Evelina Children’s Heart Organisation, we designed the Echoes prototype to develop an intuitive interface and ensure that anyone using Echoes has the confidence and knowledge to understand the purpose of the app. On [DATE], Echoes was launched at echoesapp.org, and is now available for public use.

Echoes enables everyone to feel connected to their body and become familiar with their own heart sounds. For some people this might mean listening to the soothing sounds of their own heartbeat, or those in the app’s library of heart sounds. For others, that connection and familiarity might have more to do with tracking an existing cardiac condition.

“Echoes could help people gather useful data in a low-stress environment, rather than having to travel for routine check ups.”

All the recordings are sent to the KCL/Maastricht research team, along with anonymised anthropometrics and cardiac health indicators (provided by the user). The database of recordings can then be analysed in order to see how well the technology performs.

If the research shows that mobile technologies are a viable way of recording heart sounds, then in future cardiac patients and doctors could use at-home recordings to check for sudden or significant changes. While it isn’t a diagnostic tool, Echoes could help people gather useful data in a low-stress environment, rather than having to travel for routine check ups. The technology could also be a useful educational tool, a way to help children learn about their hearts and hear what different people’s hearts sound like.

Echoes is a collaboration between Cellule design studio and Dr. Pablo Lamata and his team at the School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences at King’s College London. The initial idea of the app originated in the research of Hongxing Luo at the University of Maastricht. Early testing was conducted through the British Heart Foundation and Evelina Children’s Heart Organisation charities. Project funded by the Wellcome Trust and PICnetEU.

Creative Director – Salomé Bazin
Lead researcher – Dr Hongxing Luo
Programmers – Joe and Andrew Fender
Assistant sound and visual – Yildiz Tufan
Photography – Swann El Mokkeddem
Web programmer – Elvire Coudray

Digital Twin

Big Data

Inclusive Design

Personalised medicine is an emerging approach to patient treatment. By analysing patient-specific information about their physiology, pathology, genome and lifestyle, combined with patterns observed in the scale of populations, we are able to move toward more precise, predictable and powerful health care for individual patients. One of the practices of personalised medicine is to create digital twins of patients: digital replicas of patients based on their recorded data, which allows to predict critical information about each individual, such as their risk of developing a disease, and how they would respond to a treatment.
A rising trend is in-silico medicine (as opposed to in-vivo or in-vitro) where drugs or interventions are tested by computer simulations.

Big Data is the science of processing data that is too large, fast and complex to be analysed using traditional methods. With the advent of the internet and the internet of things, computers are dealing with extremely large quantities of data arriving in at an extremely fast rate and in a variety of complex formats (numbers, text, audio, video…). Big data seeks to capture, store and extract information from these kinds of data, with acceptable results and in an acceptable time. It englobes fields like statistical analysis and machine learning. Data analysis can help predict business trends, streamline user experiences, or build complex models of an individual’s hearts!
The paradigm shift in surgery is to plan the best healthcare provision adapted to our specific biological architecture and machinery. The combination of medical imagery with machine learning and omics science target for a better understanding of individuals as well as population health.

In our design practice, we aim to design for the uniqueness and diversity of each individual, keeping in mind everybody’s different abilities, needs and desires. We keep our design processes close to the end users and involve them in the decisions we make. We try to understand people’s differences to create better products, services and environments for everyone. We believe that learning from diversity enhances our creativity, and improves our work as designers and people.
Inclusive design means that a product, service or environment is designed with the knowledge and expertise of users who are ‘experts’ of their situations and can prioritize needs. A collaborative design process allows to mobilise a wider range of information, ideas and insights to address a broader social challenge and prevents major errors that could occur from a design-engineer centric approach.

Computational Cardiology

Computational cardiology is the use of advanced imaging, genetic screening and devices to understand heart conditions and to treat patients according to their specific pathophysiology. Cardiologists use computational models that analyse great amounts of patient-specific physiological and physical information, to reveal diagnostic information and predict clinical outcomes, which enables personalising treatment for individuals.
Scanning technologies (MRI, CT, Echocardiography) are widely used, non invasive technique to create detailed images of organs and tissue in the body using strong magnetic fields or ultrasound to create 2D or 3D imagery.

Big Data

Big Data is the science of processing data that is too large, fast and complex to be analysed using traditional methods. With the advent of the internet and the internet of things, computers are dealing with extremely large quantities of data arriving in at an extremely fast rate and in a variety of complex formats (numbers, text, audio, video…). Big data seeks to capture, store and extract information from these kinds of data, with acceptable results and in an acceptable time. It englobes fields like statistical analysis and machine learning. Data analysis can help predict business trends, streamline user experiences, or build complex models of an individual’s hearts!
The paradigm shift in surgery is to plan the best healthcare provision adapted to our specific biological architecture and machinery. The combination of medical imagery with machine learning and omics science target for a better understanding of individuals as well as population health.

Interactive Architecture

Interactive architecture is the art/science of creating spaces and buildings that interact with their visitors. By incorporating sensors, processors and effectors in the core of the architecture,we can create intelligent spaces that acquire the ability to gather information from the physical space, understand it and act in consequence on it. This allows architects to create a real-time, personalised interaction between a space and its visitors – between a smart object and a smart subject. For us designers, they become a vector for interactive art. We aim to create ‘spaces’ that respond to our presence and help us understand complex notions of the physical and natural world that we are constantly interacting with.