Hatsumi is a participatory webVR experience bridging art, health and technology. Audiences are invited to explore the connection between emotional and physical pain through 3D drawing and sound.

Hatsumi is a novel approach to understand and communicate sensory experience inspired by body map storytelling, an existing and effective arts and health research method. The team behind Hatsumi is drastically enhancing and expanding its potential by bringing it into VR.

Traditionally, the process involves tracing around a person’s body. This is filled in via a reflective and creative process, which can help participants articulate and better express personal experiences and methods for coping with everyday life.

Audiences are able to access a safe and private space where they can reflect on their embodied experiences, and express themselves using animated drawing tools and sound.

Walkthrough video – 2020

Intended audience

Hatsumi’s key audience is people living with chronic pain within a clinical context to help them feel better understood. The team aims to set up installations in waiting rooms of hospitals, and test how this tool can be used to help patients communicate their pain experience to clinicians.

A direct to user version will be launched to enable at-home use for people living with pain and mental health issues.

Hatsumi intends to develop public installations exhibiting user-generated illustrations. The aim is to create new dialogues around invisible experiences in the hopes of reducing stigma.

Creator’s statement

Butterflies in the stomach, frozen with fear, a stiff upper lip. We are feeling bodies, often seeking the novel and dulling the painful everyday. But how can we communicate experiences to others when sometimes words are not enough?

Hatsumi was inspired by my own lived experience of psychosis, and the frustration of not being able to articulate my own experience, and subsequently feeling unheard. This project seeks to blur arts and science, and create new ways to examine our inner mental maps, and reveal new layers of hidden realities in the hopes of creating a more compassionate society.

Technical summary

The team leveraged “Aleph”, an open source 3D volumetric viewer and biometric data delivery toolset, recently developed as part of the morphosource.org project. The architecture of these components is unique in both supported file formats and the approach to annotation using Mozilla’s open source A-frame WebVR framework.

Project team details

  • Sarah Ticho – Project Director and Manager, Hatsumi
  • Ed Silverton – Technical Lead, Mnemoscene
  • Esin Yavuz – AI Lead, Cynapse
  • Simon Holkham – Sound Designer
  • Esther Flanagan – Clinical Psychologist

Team profile

Hatsumi’s team is a collection of artists, scientists and technologists who believe in an anti-disciplinary approach to designing for human health and wellbeing. They believe in the union of art, science and playfulness to enable innovative patient-centred approaches to tackle society’s biggest health challenges.

Past work

  • 2018 – Wonderland X
  • 2018 – Nomad
  • 2016 – Explore Deep