An experimental short-film controlled by the viewer's brainwaves while they are watching it aims to bridge the gap between visual arts and neuroscience. Matthew Stock reports.
STORY: From talkies and technicolor to 3D and motion seats, cinema is always looking for the next big thing. Now an experimental short-film lets the viewer influence what happens on-screen via their brainwaves. Called Scanners, the system uses a wireless headset that reads brainwaves, allowing the user to subconsciously manipulate the film's structure. (SOUNDBITE) (English) RICHARD RAMCHURN, SCANNERS CREATOR, SAYING: "SCANNERS is a film platform that uses live data from people's brains to cut and mix a film where you have an effect loop - a two-way effect loop - whereby, watching the film you change it and it changes you." It uses an EEG headset to read the wearer's brainwaves. A sensor on the forehead picks up muscular and brainwave data, while one on the ear lobe reads muscular information. With this information, the processor inside the headset can separate the muscular data to isolate and identify the various brainwaves. In the case of Scanners, it's the Alpha brainwaves they're interested in; important for creativity and meditation. The film - with a 15-minute run time - needed proportionately far more footage for all the variations that each viewer could bring to it. (SOUNDBITE) (English) RICHARD RAMCHURN, SCANNERS CREATOR, SAYING: "Rather than making a linear film, we made a film that was much more quantum... And we were able to show what's happening inside somebody's mind, what's happening in, almost, their imagination at the same time as the reality." Scanners was recently field tested in a caravan converted into a cinema, with curious passers-by asked to step inside to give it a try. (SOUNDBITE) (English) RICHARD RAMCHURN, SCANNERS CREATOR, SAYING: "Each time I watch someone else create the film, they make new jumps that I've not seen before." It's unlikely that a similar system could prove viable at your local multiplex. But Ramchurn says a similar system could give neuroscientists a better glimpse into the subconscious and allow them to make detailed recordings of dreams.