University of Nottingham has produced a movie where the plot changes depending on the viewer’s brain activity.
Project leader Richard Ramchurn, a graduate student at the University of Nottingham, is an artist and director who has spent the last several years making films that you can control with your mind – simply by wearing a $100 electroencephalogram (EEG) headset that detects electrical activity in your brain. With the headset on, scenes, animation, and music alter every time you watch it, depending on the ramblings of your mind. Though it should be noted that there are doubts about how well devices like this can actually do such tracking.
The movie, a 27-minute avant-garde tale appropriately dubbed The Moment, is set to receive its world premiere at the Sheffield DocFest on 7 June 2018. BBC’s Jen Copestake describes the movie as the “greatest film ever made…because it’s made by me, using my brain waves.” The strap-line for the movie is: “n a war that takes place in people’s minds, how do you rebel when your thoughts are monitored?”
This is how the movie process works. Each viewer is fitted with an EEG headset, with receptors that monitor the wearer’s brainwaves. The headset detects firing neurons as the view reacts to images seen on the screen. In our brains, neurons are fired when signals are sent by the brain. The movie itself consists of three simultaneous narratives. With these the viewer can dip in and out of each, creating a story that’s unique to each viewer. If you happened to see the film with a friend, both of you will be recounting a different film going experience when discussing it afterwards.
Ramchurn believes there are about 101 trillion different versions of the film. To set up the 27-minute-experimental film, he had to capture three times as much footage and six times as much audio as a normal film.
The movie tells the story of a fictional future society where brain-computer interfaces are both a source of social threat and potential revelation.
Ramchurn, however, isn’t the first person to try to get viewers to interact with movies; from singalongs to smartphone apps meant to be used while watching, the history of cinema is filled with efforts like these.
Jacob Gaboury, an assistant professor of film and media at UC-Berkeley, recalls sitting in a theater in the 1990s and using a joystick to choose between two different film endings. Making films that respond to brain activity might prompt filmmakers to write different types of stories, sounds, and images than they normally would, he says.
“Often, you get bogged down in telling stories in a particular way in the cinema, so it could be interesting to see how that would progress from a director’s perspective,” Gaboury said.