The seemingly infinite use of smartphones endures with an iPhone app release from Morpholio that claims an ability to track our visceral responses to the built environment.

For years, smartphones have been collecting a variety of personal data to individualise phone experiences, and to provide quantifiable feedback to a variety of institutions and organisations - think government, marketing, and sales.

These types of data came predominantly from location, orientation, and sight and sound monitoring devices, but until now left personalised biological responses to the field of medical technology.

The architects and academics behind The Morpholio Project realised that as the world becomes more inclined to interact through smartphone and tablets, expectation is that these mobile devices will evolve to incorporate design innovations traditionally outside their field.

“We’re getting more networked, we have to be more productive and navigate an increasingly complex set of expectations.” says Mark Collins, Morpholio co-creator.

“Advancements in medical, aerospace, and entertainment domains have all had some applicability to design. If it is crucial for other professions to appreciate the value of design, it is equally important to acknowledge that advancements in those fields can impact our process,” adds Jeffrey Kenoff, co-creator of Morpholio.

Image: Morpholio

It was this respect for the technological advancements of other fields that sparked The Morpholio Project — a group of apps that attempts to reinvent the creation process and collaboration for designers through mobile devices. The project has since culminated in the creation of a new visceral response app.

Morpholio turned to the medical profession to understand how it measures blood flow through a technique called photoplethysmography (PPG). The Morpholio team wanted to see if it could quantify the physical impact of an image on the human body through this medical technique.

“The responses our bodies make when engaging with the world can reflect our inner states and assessments. We’ve been finding ways to tap into these signals with research on biometrics, including EEG, EMG, face tracking and pulse measurement,” says Toru Hasegawa, co-creator of Morpholio.

Image: Morpholio

“As an extension of our research we wanted to see if we could record the heartbeat in relation to what was being seen and experienced.”

Put simply, the PPG method measures a human pulse by periodically taking photos of an illuminated region of skin. The camera on the iPhone in this instance is used to read small fluctuations in colour that result from actual blood flow through the skin in reaction to seeing different images.

“In our app, unique images flash across the screen as the heart rate fluctuations of the user are recorded, thereby tracking their visceral response to the images. After a few iterations, we developed a 3D printed fitting for the iPhone that indicates how to locate your finger properly on the device and blocks external light from entering the camera,” explained Morpholio.

With the 3D printed fitting, the Morpholio transforms the iPhone into a miniaturised blood pressure machine that records heart rate fluctuations while users consider their surroundings.

By tracking an individual’s unique emotional response to what they are seeing and experiencing, Morpholio believes they can unlock new potentials in the design process through the evolution of technology. “Creativity is so unique - it’s this fantastic thing that our brains do that we don’t completely understand. Creatives have to nurture their instincts, their tastes and their expertise, opening up a world of possibilities for mobile devices,” said Collins.

Founded in 2011, The Morpholio Project is a group of apps that create an interactive design site for professional designers, artists, photographers as well as any imaginative individuals to create, share, collaborate and receive feedback on their works.

It began by re-introducing the portfolio as a design tool with the Morpholio app, and then resurrected tracing paper for the masses with the Trace app.

The project is largely interested in challenging the role of device culture in the design process.

Visit for more information on The Morpholio Project and their range of apps.

View a video explanation of the app below: 

All Images: Morpholio