From the github page of the project: “This is the project B-vr – a short for Brain Virtual Reality. Project B-vr is an abstract audiovisual art form with a goal to create a cerebral virtual reality visual music instrument. And a lots of pyramids”.
Project B-vr is a beautifully made, psychedelic environment experienced through video goggles and controlled or changed by input coming from the brain through BCI (Open Vibe). The question in the project, so far, is: what will determine how the viewer perceives the changes made in the environment by his or her own brain activity?
Is the project aiming at creating a beautiful experience? How is that enhanced by the viewers’ own brain waves? What can this sort of neural feedback loop lead to?
The project is strongly reminiscent of the 2014 allegorical film, The Congress, directed by Ari Folman (with Robin Wright, Harvey Keitel). In the film, new ‘neuro-cinematic’ media means that actors are entirely replaced by their simulations, and the audience experiences film through immersive VR goggles. When the goggles are later replaced by VR neuro-cinematic drugs, it unleashes a new wave of neuro-cinematic entertainment consumers and produces the demand for neuro state control. It’s a dark (but also hilarious) film worth watching if you want to better understand the increasing mixture of entertainment technologies, science, and bio politics.
- Štěpán Drbohlav
- Lukáš Hejtmánek
- Martin Hofmann
- Lucia Hrašková
- Evan Tedlock
- Lukáš Ulrich
Hack the Brain Prague featured several fantastic presentations by Beatrice de Gelder, Pier Luigi Capucci, and Brendan Allison.
Beatrice de Gelder
Beatrice de Gelder lectured about the neuroscience of perception, an area that is also of great interest for the arts. She also pointed out strongly that, for this project, we might consider talking about “hacking the body” instead of “hacking the brain” as it is so difficult to think of the two as separate. This is an idea we observed in the hackathon projects that attempted to utilise the brain as a muscle to move images or to make objects move.
Another interesting element of Beatrice de Gelder’s presentation was about how much similarity can be observed in brain activity when a person is thinking about a melody and when she is actually hearing it. She showed us her research related to this concept in which she researched how much people become immersed in their avatar during gaming situations. From this, effects such as game addiction can be researched from a neurological point of view.
During the many projects she described in her presentation, it was interesting to see how much food for thought and food for art they all contained beyond the BNCI projects developed in de Prague hackathon.
In case you are interested in collaborating with Beatrice de Gelder’s Emotion and Cognition lab at Maastricht University, you find a link here to artist residency program.
Pier Luigi Capucci
After introducing NOEMA (a platform devoted to relationship and influences between culture, science and technology), Pier Luigi Capucci presented a brief anthology of artistic interactions with neuroscience and neuro-technologies. It’s great to see the richness of more than half a century of these projects. Take, for example, Alvin Lucier’s 1965 project, Music for solo performance, wherein he uses a musician’s brain waves to make a percussion instrument work. The work not only questions (already in the 1960’s) the authorship and authenticity of the music performer, but also does the same thing that was done by a number of teams in the Prague hackthon [http://www.alvin-lucier-film.com/solo_performer.html]. The performance was later re-enacted by Andrew Brause in 2006.
In 1994, Ulrike Gabriel and Bob O’Kane made an installation, terrain_01, in which the alteration of two people’s brain activity drives the activity of small solar powered mobile robots. The calmer the participants are, the more lively and synchronised the robot activity.
Awarded the Off-Arco prize in 2007, Janez Jansa and Reinhold Scherer (in collaboration with other media artists, neuroscientists, and supported by G-Tech) made BrainLoop, an installation in which a performer moved through Google Earth using brain activity read by a BCI.
Steel Sky (2009), from Christopher de Boeck, does something other than using brain activity to move something else. The visitor/participant wearing a BCI walks underneath a ‘roof’ of steel elements that sonify his or her neural activity.
Capucci mainly showed us projects about artistic uses of BCI. Apart from these, there are also interesting artistic interactions with neuroscience that go beyond BCI. Among these are, for instance, Guy Ben-Ary’s project, CellF, a neural synthesizer made of the artist’s own neural cells grown in a petri dish.
Brandon Allison, member of the advisory board of Hack the Brain and working with both G-tech and UC Davies California, explained – with some hilarious examples – the differences and similarities between professional scientific BNCI and the ones on the consumer market. He also mentioned how BCI are starting to become fashion items.
Showing us a number of future non-medical applications of BCI, Allison clearly explained why BCI will be used a lot in gaming applications in the near future. Interestingly, he described designs that will make you navigate applications similar to Google Maps using BCI (something that was done by artists 10 years ago). The use of BCI to navigate through World of Warcraft has also been tested.
The somewhat ethically problematic application of measuring alertness using BCI was, interestingly, one of the hackathon projects. In the project, if drowsiness occurs, the BCI wearer is alerted by signals. Gamer fanatics would love something like this to stay awake for another 24 hours. And it could be beneficial for exhausted truck drivers needing to avoid accidents. But what, for instance, if it was mostly used to push productivity to new limits? For future hackathons it would be interesting to look into how measurement of emotional states can produce a driving output for gaming situations.
Venuše ve Švehlovce, a 19th-century theatre hall in the Prague district of Žižkov is the location for Hack the Brain Prague Hackathon. Over 3 days, seven teams of artists, scientists, developers and psychologists are working collaboratively on a range of projects using BCI technologies. Day 1 was opened by local organisers Pavel Smetana and Cyril Kaplan, Waag Society’s Jurre Ongering on behalf of the BrainHack consortium, and STARTS initiative representatives Peter Friess and Luis-Miguel Girao. Technical mentors were introduced. Participants introduced ideas, and during the team-forming stage, joined into groups to work together for the remainder of the weekend. Technical presentations from IBM and OpenVibe followed. At the end of the evening, teams reported on the status of their projects and asked for any assistance they needed from fellow participants or mentors. On Day 2, the teams continued to work to improve and refine their projects, which include animation and sonification of EEG data, a virtual instrument to be played by the brain, a project which will stimulate the brain to remain at the optimal level for work if the user’s concentration or focus begin to slip, and a kinetic “worm” statue which will change shape in response to brain signals. The afternoon session featured talks from artist Peter Friess, and jury members Beatrice de Gelder, Pier Luigi Capucci, Achilleas Kentonis and Brandon Allison who discussed various aspects of their own work.
How can the brain move a kinetic sculpture made of inflating and deflating car tires? That’s the challenge the team of Krystof Kaplan, Vlasta Koudelka, and Dmitri Berzon. They have set out to create an application to be used by an individual connected to the sculpture using an OpenVibe interface controlling air pressure tubes via the open source software.
From the team’s github page: “The kinetic worm can move and breathe using its pneumatic mussels made of 24 tires. Extra eight tires are constantly inflated and form a sculpture skeleton. OpenVibe is connected to NeuroSky Mindwave mobile device and further analyze the eeg stream to obtain a robust eeg marker. Relative frontal alpha power was chosen to measure a level of concentration.”
My immediate question was to the neuro-imaging engineer, Vlasta, was whether this project he was mentoring is also interesting for his field of research.
We know the brain is able to change its functions to a certain extent (a person loosing a neural ability such as sight, or improving their hearing or certain other brain functions, for instance). Can the brain be used directly as a device or as more of a muscle that operates the kinetic sculpture activating other parts of the brain that one would need to make ones hand operate the worm?
- Krystof Kaplan is an artist and author of kinetic sculpture dedicated and designed for BCI and neuro-feedback purposes
- Vlastimil Koudelka is an engineer and researcher in neuro-imaging, machine learning, and optimization
- Dmitri Berzon is a Concept developer / Light designer, Programmer, Conceptual artist specializing in interactive installations
- Cyril Kaplan is a psychologist specializing on EEG correlates of mental and emotional activity, music producer, openVibe and PD programmer.
Gluon invites artists to submit proposals for the development and production of new work in collaboration with the Brain and Emotion Laboratory, a research group that is part of the department of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of Maastricht (NL).
Gluon offers a two-month residency at the Brain and Emotion Laboratory lead by Prof. Beatrice De Gelder. The goal of the residency is to create a new artwork which integrates and/or reflects upon the innovative technological and scientific developments researched by the Brain and Emotion Laboratory.
Therefore we invite you – artists – to develop, in collaboration with the researchers from the Brain and Emotion Laboratory, a prototype for a new artwork. The group investigates emotion and cognition in humans. Their projects include investigations of emotion and cognition in neurologically intact participants, but also in patients with focal brain lesions, and prosopagnosia, neuropsychiatric populations such as people with schizophrenia, autism and Williams syndrome. They use behavioral methods, electrophysiology, EMG, as well as functional imaging.
Focus areas :
Non-conscious recognition in patients with cortical damage
The group has carried out novel research on the ability of patients with striate cortex lesions to identify the emotional meaning of visual stimuli of which they are not aware. Such non-conscious recognition was hitherto not deemed possible in these patients. The group has also recently developed a new, indirect methodology for studying non-conscious recognition of facial expressions.
Emotional expression in whole bodies
The computer crashes. What do we do? Self-consciously scratch our heads, fruitlessly fiddle with the computer, tear our hair and nervously bite our lips. Even though we don’t utter a single word, anybody watching would know exactly what’s going on inside. Our body language is part of us. Because emotions, gestures and facial expressions are linked up in the brain, even people who were born deaf and blind will turn down the corners of their mouths to express sadness and smile to show that they are happy.
Face recognition and its deficits
The research team has carried out a wide variety of studies in this area. The most important finding to date has been that prosopagnosics’ face identification performance was improved by inversion of face stimuli (the opposite is true for normal subjects). The theoretical implications of this paradoxical “inversion superiority” phenomenon in these patients have been incorporated into a new theory of face processing.
Multisensory perception and the interaction between auditory and visual processes
Cross-modal integration in speech perception, audio-visual localisation and the perception of affect are all investigated. The latter research concerns the interaction between identification of the emotional expression portrayed in the face simultaneously with the tone of voice in which sentences are spoken .
You will get the opportunity to develop your ideas and a prototype together with the researchers of the Brain and Emotion Laboratory. This can be an application, a maquette, mock-ups, code or 3D-visualisations, etc. Next to the labs of Brain and Emotion, the workshops of Gluon’s partners are at your disposal (Fablabs, Medialabs) for further development of the prototype.
For the development and production of the prototype Gluon will grant up 5000 EUR to maximum one artist.
Submit your proposal before 18 December 2016, 11:00 (GMT+1) PM.
Applications received after the deadline of 18 December 2016, will not be accepted.
Complete applications must include the following information:
Biography – Max. 500 characters, spaces incl.
CV – Max . 1500 characters, spaces incl.
Description of the project including:
Abstract of the project (2500 characters)
Description of the technological innovative potential of the project (1000 characters)
Description of the technical (skills) of the researcher you need or that you already collaborating with (1000 characters)
Objective and expected outcome (500 characters)
Images – Max. 3
This call is open to national and international candidates
The application deadline is 18 December 2016, 11:00h (GMT+1) PM
Applicants will be informed of their application status before 23 December 2016
The residency will run from 6 March 2017 till 8 May 2017
For the development and production of the installation Gluon will grant up 5000 EUR to maximum one artist.
Gluon will work closely with the artists and researchers to see their projects realized by offering technical and artistic guidance.
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
“Hack the Brain Prague Hackathon” (HBPH 2016) has the specific aim of supporting co-operation between artists and scientists in BNCI (Brain/Neural Computer Interaction) related projects. The participants will work together in multidisciplinary teams on projects which they have chosen for themselves. During three days of intensive collaborative work they will be encouraged and supported to explore the possibilities and to find novel applications of BNCI systems. We welcome applications from anyone with a neuroscientific or artistic background. It will be an opportunity for you to learn something new about art or the human brain, learn something about yourself, acquire new technical skills and approaches, and also to meet new colleagues. The hackathon’s project based approach is designed to stimulate your imagination and expand ywour horizons. Join us and contribute to the success of this hackathon!
Find out more here on the main website!
Three full days of brainhacking 24 to 26 June in Amsterdam: Hack yourself better (or worse)
“What if we could hack the brain?” is what brought 58 hackers and 12 organisers to the Waag. The first day of the hackathon was all about questions and ideas. This year’s hackers were a vibrant mix of artists, scientists and developers. Many hackers arrived with their own ideas on how they wished to hack the brain; some even arrived with preparation, tools or part of a team; all arrived with a lot of enthusiasm and energy. With the abundance of talent and inspiration the first morning ended with 11 teams and at least as many wild ideas.
Friday afternoon was spent turning these wild ideas into wild but also doable brain hacks. The public evening event brought even more ideas and questions and was concluded by Bert van Otten with the wise words: “Science doesn’t cover it all. Art should be part of the process. – Art doesn’t cover it all. Science should be part of the process.”
The Saturday was for prototyping and crazy hard work. By now all teams had a plan and selected a brain measurement tool. This day also the organisers tried to do their own hacks: a science hack (Donders Institute) and an international Cloudbrain connection (Total Active Media, Cloudbrain and NeurotechX). These experts weren’t as successful as one might have expected. Let’s put it down to high ambitions and a shortfall of resources, or as Jason Farquhar put it “If everything succeeds we are not trying hard enough.”
Sunday morning: a slight rise in stress-levels, a lot more caffeine, sugar and vitamine consumption and a big final with the pitches of 11 mind expanding working prototypes! Winners are Bisensorial (1st place), 100% Engaged (2nd place), BAT (3rd place) and Second Brain (Insane-but-might-be-possible-in-some-distant-future-award). Our idea is that everyone from participants to organisers and visitors, came away with new inspiration and an urge to keep on hacking the brain!
Jason Farquhar of the Donders Institute in Nijmegen is interviewed about the Hack the brain 2016 event. He reflects on the proces of scientists and artist co-creating in neuroscientific/artistic projects.
Alexander von Lühmann is interviewed about the Hack the brain 2016 event and about his Open NIRS project. He reflects on the proces of scientists and artist co-creating in neuroscientific/artistic projects during the hackathon.