A handful of parts used to form an Electrocardiogram


It’s difficult to image a more bare-bones approach to building an ECG. [Raul] used an Arduino nano to collect samples and push them to a computer for graphing.

An Electrocardiogram measures electrical activity around your heart. The white circles above are the sensors which he picked up in a box of fifty for 11 Euros (under $15). Stick them on your skin in just the right places and they’ll report back on what your heart is doing.

He used a AD8221 to amplify the signals. He mentions that this is an ins-amp, not an op-amp. We didn’t find a concise reference explaining what that is. It might be a good topic for the comments section. The signal from that chip feeds into an LM324 op-amp before being dumped into the Arduino.

Simplicity comes at a price. This measures very small electrical impulses and has very little in the way of shielding and filtering. Because of this you may need to do a rain dance, say a prayer, burn a candle, and stick needles into a doll to get a reliable signal on the other end.

Here’s another version that doesn’t require special sensors.

Fitting a cold, metal heart in an Altoids tin


[James] has been building a heart rate monitor using a very cool TI chip. He needed a way to test his device, and commercial ECG simulators, like all biotech devices, are absurdly expensive. [James] decided to build his own heart rate simulator, and in the process made a great tool and one of the most well documented projects we’ve ever seen.

Of course, if you’re building an ECG simulator, you’re going to need a good sample of a heart’s electrical pattern. To get this sample, [James] found an old army manual with a diagram of an ideal ECG pattern. [James] took this PDF manual, screen capped the diagram, and used a Python script to generate an array in C the Arduino could repeat over and over.

The rest of the build consisted of a D/A converter, a pot to change the heart rate, a very nice seven-segment display, and a few banana jacks to connect to [James]’ heart monitor. Everything is up in a git, including an amazingly well documented (87 pages!) tutorial for building your own Arduino heart simulator.

DIY Propeller-based ECG


[Ray] likes to build all sorts of Propeller-based projects, but one of the more interesting items we came across was this DIY ECG. While we have covered other DIY electrocardiograms before, he left the breadboard behind and put together a nicely done PCB for his build.

The ECGs design should be pretty familiar to anyone that has seen our ECG coverage in the past. The user places his thumbs on the large built-in pads, which allow the circuit to sense the electrical signals produced by heart’s contractions. These small electrical impulses are then amplified using an AD627 instrument amplifier before being further amplified via a dual op-amp.

The amplified signal is filtered and then fed into the Propeller’s ADC, which displays the user’s heart rhythms via an LED. The data can also be fed into a computer via an optoisolated serial connection.

[Ray] lays out a litany of warnings and precautions that should be followed before downloading his schematics and firmware. We have to echo those warnings, as it doesn’t take a large well-placed shock to disrupt the heart.

Wireless electrocardiography… with iPhone

This module is a sensor package for monitoring the electrical activity of the heart. It is the product of an effort to create a Wireless Body Sensor Network node that is dependable while consuming very little electricity, which means a longer battery life. To accomplish this, the microcontroller in charge of the node compresses the data (not usually done with wireless ECG hardware) so that the radio transmissions are as short and infrequent as possible.

[Igor] sent us this tip and had a short question and answer session with one of the developers. It seems they are working with the MSP430 chips right now because of their low power consumption. Unfortunately those chips still draw a high load when transmitting so future revisions will utilize an alternative.

Oh, and why the iPhone? The device that displays the data makes little difference. In this case they’re transmitting via Bluetooth for a real-time display (seen in the video after the break). This could be used for a wide variety of devices, or monitored remotely via the Internet.

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Lucid dreaming

When we saw [merkz] use of an Arduino to produce lucid dreaming we were quite shocked. Unlike typical setups that just flash a light through sleep, his system monitors eye movement through electrodes and is able to send the data to a computer for graphing and analyzing.  The only problem being we couldn’t find a circuit diagram or code.

Not ones to be shot down so quickly, a Google revealed this thread on making ‘Dream Goggles’, which was really a Brain-Wave Machine based on the parallel port. Some modifications of an ECG collector’s electrodes using sound cards, and you could have your own lucid dreaming.

[Thanks Phil]

Collect and analyze ECG data


Although we’ve covered DIY ECGs before, [Scott Harden] sent in his version that gives an in-depth explanation of what to do with the collected data. He built a basic battery-powered op-amp-based ECG for under $1. The circuit just amplifies the signal from the chest leads and feeds it into a computer via the microphone port. He then used GoldWave to record, filter, and save the signal. From there, he used python to analyze the heartbeat and calculate his heart rate and further manipulate the data. His previous blog posts go into more detail on how the python code works and why he chose software over hardware filters.

Make an ECG with your sound card

[Marcus] sent in his work on making ECGs. His first one was inspired by [Jason]’s. Believe it or not, you can build this thing for under $5. After getting it semi-functional, he decided to pick up a cheap one and mod it for PC input via the sound card. (There are plenty of sound card oscilloscope projects that will work for this.) Remember kids, don’t go sticking electrodes on anyone unless you know what you’re doing: correctly placed electrical shocks (even low power ones) can be deadly.