Activate Yourself

Muscle Activity Visualization Game


Many times we visualize data in a way that not everyone can understand, therefore data does not add value to our everyday lives to change how we act. EMGs are used to understand muscle activity, but what does that mean?


Activate Yourself is a Carnival-like game to help children understand what movements activate the Tricep, Bicep or Forearm more. Users wear an EMG and follow on screen prompts to visually understand if their muscle of choice is being used during different motions they utilize.


I designed, coded and tested the device myself, in Fall 2014 at Carnegie Mellon University.


EMG Shield, Arduino, Processing 2.0, Neo Pixels, Digital Fabrication, 3D Printing


Implementing Game Design

Questions I faced to figure out the interactions and goals of the application included: How should information be conveyed? What is the interaction? How do we excite or intrigue users about Muscle Activity? I spent time determine what the gamification of the interface should be, whether it should be only software based or physical also. After discussion with professors and asking a few kids, I decided the best was was to gamify the application similar to a hammer meter carnival game.

I researched what types of game designs were more informative, but also wanted children to gain quick rewards and retain interest by limiting the game length. After user testing, I incorporated a leadership board to spark competition that took a picture of the user in action so users could see what motions create higher scores. Points were there to show to kids by a meter scale. The more the muscle is activated the higher the score.

Sketches to figure out Game Design Rules

Sketches to figure out Game Design Rules

User Flows 

After understanding the goals and problem I spent time sketching out the interactions of the game itself. I created user flows of the game to establish the experience of the game with different timers. The word usage and incorporation of the Game Directions were important to establish to allow children to have an easy understanding and making sure that they understood the goal.

Sketches for Flow of Game

Sketches for Flow of Game

Game Incorporation

I create the rules of the game. Each user would choose from 3 options to place the EMG electrodes on their body: Bicep, Tricep or Forearm. Users would be given instructions to move with one movement for 5 seconds, then another movement for 5 seconds when told to. Other decisions I made included what were the scoring goals, averaging your movements or which motion created a higher movement. 


Prototyping & User Testing

Using Processing 2.0 I created the onscreen prompts and software. The software connected to an EMG Shield attached to an Arduino through Firmata imports into Processing. Readable data informed whether a muscle had been 'activated' while someone was moving. The higher the analog read, the more the muscle was trying to be utilized through local electric muscle activity sent from the brain.

Wireframes of tested prototype

Wireframes of tested prototype


User Testing

I love this I just wish it was more portable so I could throw a keg or something and compete in real time against my buddy
— Gallery Participant

The product was tested at a gallery show in East Liberty at Assemble.  Overall users appreciated the game, and were excited to create information from their bodies. Some of the feedback included:

Its fun to see my body visualized, I forget how much there is to every movement we do.
— Another Participant
  • Users desired more playful imaging (limitations of low-fi), but still desired a clinical explanation of information about EMGs.
  • Implementation of a leader board to compare their actions to others. 
  • Conveying the meter in another medium not on the screen

UI Design & Iterating

These comments guided how I redesigned and added UI to the final software, adding a colorful and fun additives.

New UI Designs based on feedback w/incorporation of Leaderboard

New UI Designs based on feedback w/incorporation of Leaderboard


Creating a Physical Meter

I utilized my fabrication skills to create a simple meter and design that would show the scores by meter in more of a playful way. Basswood was used to create the base, and the lightbulbs were 3d printed out of Resin and ABS Plastic. It was important for the Meter to be visually appealing and the purpose/measurement to be understood to the users once apart of the game. The LED lights utilized on the physical component are Neopixels, each LED can be programmed specifically instead of only the whole strip.