BrightHearts Research

Collaboration with Dr Angie Morrow, 2011 – ongoing


The BrightHearts Research project is investigating the application of George Khut’s heart-rate controlled artworks  for use during medical procedures – as a biofeedback assisted relaxation-training app to help manage the pain and anxiety experienced by children who undergo recurrent painful procedures, such as injections for Botulinim (‘Botox’) treatments, Baclofen pump changes, central line changes, and lumbar punctures.

The recurrent nature of these procedures can result in a build-up of anticipatory anxiety, causing significant distress to the children, exacerbating the perceived intensity of the painful stimulus during treatment, and further complicating veinipuncture procedures in cases of extreme vasoconstriction. If left un-addressed, the intense distress and anxiety experienced during these procedures can lead to avoidance behaviours that may stay with them into adulthood. .

Children using the BrightHearts App before and during anxiety provoking procedures are rewarded with sounds and visuals that respond to decreases in heart rate over different periods of time i.e. changes that they can influence with their breathing, and longer-term changes that require relaxation.

The BrightHearts approach combines standard distraction methods with the principals of biofeedback relaxation training – focusing children’s attention away from their object of their anxiety and fear, and helping them to develop skills for observing and regulating their response during painful procedures.

The BrightHearts App is designed to work with Heart Rate sensors that use the Bluetooth Heart Rate standardsensors i.e. MIO Alpha, Link etc., Polar H7, and is available for purchase from the Apple iTunes Store.



George Khut: interaction concept, interaction programming (Max-MSP), production management

Dr Angie Morrow: Staff specialist, Kids Rehab, chief investigator – acute pain management; hospital and research office liason

Jason McDermott: iOS development (visualisation software)

Andy Nicholson (Infinite Recursion): iOS Development

Angelo Fraietta (Smart Controller) and Frank Maguire: sensor electronics and hardware design

Ben Cloyd and Dr Melissa Yogui-Watanabe: research assistants, Kids Rehab.

Caroline Dale: Qualitative researcher – children’s experiences of recurrent painful procedures

Tuan Mahn Vu, Lukas Blödorn, Christoph Eibisberger, and Monette Tan (Final Year Students – Extreme Programming Workshop, Faculty of Engineering and IT): Heart Rate Variability Analysis software



BrightHearts has been supported by the James N. Kirby Foundation (medical grant);  the Australian Network for Art and Technology; the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Kids Rehab, and the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.

Special thanks to UTS Interaction Design and Human Practices Lab (IDHuP), and UTS DAB Interactivation Studio.