Be Still, My Low Poly Heart

Data sculpture, February 2016

How can a plastic heart seemingly ‘beat’ like the real thing? Glowbox co-founder, Ben Purdy, was inspired to make an interactive sculpture modeled after the human heart— a plastic polygonal model animated to life by a person’s heartbeat. Be Still, My Low Poly Heart is an exploration in sculpture, creative code, and the human body.
Beginning as a 3D anatomical model of the human heart, Purdy scrapped the veiny details, gave each complex curve a polygonal face, and created a geometric heart pieced together with laser-cut acrylic. The model was scaled up to a water-cooler sized sculpture filled with responsive LED lights activated by a fingertip sensor. Viewers were encouraged to interact with the piece by offering their heartbeat information through the sensor— this informed the colored lights to pulse through the white acrylic vessel, visualizing the rhythm of their heart in real time.
Turns out that making a low poly heart is almost as complicated as understanding the one inside our bodies. After altering the anatomical heart model into an appropriately scaled polygonal model (in Blender), the next step was to cut each piece of the facade out of white acrylic, chosen for its opacity, which allowed the LED lights to emanate through the sculptural body. Prototyping was a large part of this exploratory process. Ben was able to index the order of the faces for construction, creating a ‘sculpt-by-numbers’ from the complex puzzle pieces. Because each joined face created a unique angle, joinery of the body demanded custom brackets to satisfy the exact fit. These 87 brackets were 3D-printed using parametric models created with code (OpenSCAD) that would allow the heart to be assembled with machined precision. The final form was a result of mathematical and artistic problem solving, translating the digital to the physical, from bits to atoms.


  • Ben Purdy

Tools & Technologies

  • Blender, 3D Modeling
  • Laser-Cutter
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • 3D Printing
  • Projection Mapping
  • OpenSCAD
  • Three.js