The heartbeat is a rhythm that's basic to humans — aside from its literal significance, we use it as a metaphor for things that are "alive" to us. Now it's been captured as an interactive piece of visual art.

Phan Visutyothapibal, a master's student in New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program, used a stethoscope and some off-the-shelf software and hardware to visualize human heartbeats. The brightness corresponds to the volume of the beats, and the speed of the animation to the heart rate. 

Visutyothapibal told Discovery News that the inspiration for the work came, in part, from a project classmates didn't understand. "Originally I tried making a 3-D rendering, using music to animate the features of a face," he said. "I showed it to my classmates and they all said there was too much going on."

So he decided to simplify. He put a microphone inside a stethoscope tube and used a cone as the basic shape for the visual display. That proved much more engaging and interesting (and less confusing).

Visutyothapibal's work will be shown at the ITP Spring Show on May 14 and 15.

Visualizing Heartbeat from Phan V on Vimeo

Credit: Phan Visutyothapibal