Technology

Music From and For the Heart

After nearly dying from stress-related symptoms, BioBeats founder David Plans decided to build a mobile app that began repairing body health immediately

Our digital devices are advancing to know us intimately. Imagine a stereo system that adjusted its music based on how you felt or a scary movie that could detect how scared you are and make adjustments to maximize that fright. That interactive technology is unfolding in exciting ways.

In fact, a new app called Pulse, created by adaptive media company BioBeats, now generates electronic music based on the user’s heartbeat. Place a finger over the iPhone camera and the app detects the heartbeat and matches music to its tempo.

The application was produced and inspired by a man who needed a way to relax. After fainting at Brussels’ airport due to too much stress and being told he should be dead, BioBeats Co-Founder David Plans was determined to make media systems that support people’s wellbeing.

“Stress nearly killed me,” says Plans. “I wanted to take my background in music and in computer science and build tools that would help people connect with their bodies and understand stress better.”

Plans contacted David Morelli to code and compose the app, and the two men designed a prototype that required specific headgear to detect brainwaves in order to assist people in calming down. Plans then attended a conference that entrepreneur Nadeem Kassam was also attending and, after hours of waiting outside of Kassam’s door and persistent emailing, Kassam gave Plans a mere 15 minutes to pitch his idea.

Kassam was impressed and presented Plans with a challenge: use an iPhone’s camera to display the user’s heartbeat on the screen and turn it into music. Within hours, Morelli had coded an application that did just that. He found the camera could detect a finger becoming slightly darker every time blood pumped into it and matched a bass line to this detected heartbeat.

Pulse inspired Kassam to join Plans and Morelli, and he became BioBeat’s founder. The three men—with help from Web designers, software engineers and medical experts and the generous donations from people including Justin Bieber’s manager and actor Will Smith—turned BioBeats into a thriving company on the verge of merging entertainment with health care.

Since then, they have even partnered with the Far East Movement and got 1.5 million users to provide their heartbeats simultaneously. The team went on to win the Spotify hackathon Exhonest Prize at South by Southwest (SXSW). They have expanded Pulse’s technology to allow DJs to use the app to create a playlist powered by the audience’s heartbeats.

Even though Pulse has already done what many thought was impossible, BioBeats adaptive media team does not plan on stopping at just one app. Vice President of Engineering Morelli is working on an application that allows phones to gather data from more sources than just the heart.

To learn more about the new app or to follow Biobeats’ success, check out the official website and sign up for the newsletter at biobeats.com. —Alex Sher