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Masque

When the body senses itself internally and localizes its actions, it provides the basis for a material sense of self-existence. At the same time, the mind registers the sense of an agency with free will, the sense of being, the cause of voluntary action. Among all interoceptive experiences, respiration is the only one that we can regulate directly. There are many psychophysical breathing exercises to help self-regulation and reflection, that, combined with meditation and yoga, are designed to restore natural, smooth breathing appropriate to the physical needs of the body. 

Masque is a psychoacoustic system that manipulates the user’s perception of their own respiration by providing false auditory feedback.

By deliberately misrepresenting the wearer’s sense of their own breathing, Masque can cause bias in behavioral and cognitive experiences without any explicit instructions or stimuli. Users hear synchronized respiration sound from Masque as their own and react naturally to the synthetic body signals.

 
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Synthesized respiration

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sense the breathing

Masque uses a digital temperature sensor chip for its fast data acquisition and high resolution (0.1°C) to sense respiration. The sensor measures the temperature right in front of the nostril at a frequency of 43Hz to detect the exhaling and inhaling activity of the user.

play back the sound

Masque detects the user's breathing activities and plays back a mediated breathing sound synchronously through a bone conduction headphone. The mediated breathing sound is real-time synthesized, thus its breathing rate can be modified by the user at any moment.


Our Research

We conducted two user studies on Masque, in which we observed that users easily mistook the false breathing feedback sound as their actual respiration, and showed quantifiable changes in their behaviors in both stress and sexual attraction scenarios. 

Stress Study

In the Stress Study, the participants were asked to work on a GRE test within a shortened duration, before and after which we took their state-trait anxiety scores for comparison. 
We observed a statistically significant difference (p =.048) in terms of changes in anxiety between the groups who heard two different rates of breathing. In other words, those who heard the fast and loud false respiration feedback tended to feel more anxious after the GRE test.

Attraction Study 

We recruited twelve heterosexual, male participants in the study. They were each shown fourteen photos (publicly available) of women for 30 seconds and asked to rate each picture on the following characteristics: attractive, exciting, and friendly.

The results showed the misattribution of arousal effect for physical attraction among the participants. They rate the pictures as more attractive when they hear a fast and loud respiration sound "from themselves."

The detailed study descriptions and results can be found in the chapter five of Xin Liu's master thesis: Inward to Outward