By Julia Tereno
NUI Galway launches Eververse, a platform that uses heartbeat data to create original poetry and publish it online in real time.
The project is led by NUI Galway researcher Dr Justin Tonra, from the English department, in collaboration with Waqas Khawaja from the Insight Centre for Data Analytics, David Kelly from the Moore Institute and Brian Davis from Computer Science in Maynooth University.
Dr Tonra will wear a fitness tracking device for the next year, which will gather biometric data to produce poetry and publish it in real time on the Eververse website.
“We built a poetry generating algorithm which takes in that biometric data and spits out poetry at the other end,” he said.
The Computer Science researchers created the algorithms that generate language based on non-linguistic data.
Dr Tonra said they “trained” the algorithms to understand poetry, inputting basic principles of form, language and style.
The database contains several genres of poetry and the verses created by the platform change in form and content according to heartbeat variations.
“There’s a poetic theory behind that, the line of poetry should correspond to the poet’s breath. When your heart is racing, your breath is shorter,” said Dr Tonra.
He also said that in general, the poem changes according to what he’s experiencing at any given moment.
“We use a process called sentiment analysis to take words from poetry and heighten their sentiment,” he said.
The high heart rate is then associated with intensified emotion, so the algorithm may change words like “bad” to “terrible” because it has a heightened sentiment.
Eververse also generates poetry while you are sleeping.
Dr Tonra said his fitness tracker records four sleep states: light sleep, deep sleep, REM sleep or wakefulness.
“There is a type of poetry that corresponds to each of those zones. For the dream stage we have a separate collection of poetry that is surrealist, that’s the training collection for that, so the idea is that it will generate dreamy poetry,” he said.
In the future, the researchers intend to make Eververse available for anyone to connect their fitness trackers to and create their own poems.
Dr Tonra also said the platform will be released in open source format so people are able to program it however they choose.
He pointed out that the project is a collaboration between the humanities and the sciences and that part of the challenge is to enable understanding between people who work in very different fields.
“But it also ties into a broader desire in education and research to have the sciences and the humanities working together,” he said.
Eververse was launched on 14 February 2019, and Dr Tonra will continue to publish his heartbeat’s verses in real time to complete his year-long poem.
Some of his poetry is already available on the Eververse website: https://eververse.nuigalway.ie/