How could I keep my composure-when all sorts of thoughts fought for exposure?
February 4, 2010 2:42 PM   Subscribe

EEG brainwave signals are used as biofeedback controllers for a video mixer built in Max/MSP/Jitter software. When the participant’s brain waves change, the video changes in realtime, creating a biofeedback loop. This is Carrie Gates' Psychic Armchair TV.

"The Gallery Assistant fits the participant with the EEG sensor headband, which then reads their changing brainwaves and sends that data as integers over a wireless Bluetooth connection to the hidden laptop computer, controlling the aspects of the video playback system. The trick for participants is to learn how to train their brainwaves to respond to the graphic imagery seen on the screen in order to see all of the videos.

Clips are selected from a large bank of over 100 videos, each of which may be displayed for different durations and mixed with other videos in different ways depending on the organic path of the mental activity of the participant." [via]
posted by cashman (11 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
There is not enough Lamictal in the world to prevent me from having a seizure in there.
posted by The Bellman at 2:45 PM on February 4, 2010

long live the new flesh
posted by boo_radley at 2:48 PM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

here's a friend of a friend doing it with a datura plant, he has some other videos on his account as well
posted by p3on at 3:29 PM on February 4, 2010

I would love to point out that MAX/MSP/Jitter is pure awesome.
posted by sleslie at 4:09 PM on February 4, 2010

Hmm, this looks like rather interesting artwork. And as long as it remains under merely artistic license, then... cool.

However, from a technical standpoint... I have to point out that you'd probably get very similar results by feeding this system pure noise rather than brain waves. While it is possible for humans to control certain aspects of EEG traces by thought alone, this only works after extensive practice and only in a rather limited fashion. Basically, if you work and practice really hard you can make a point go up or down, but that's about it. Achieving something that can create an actual "biofeedback controller" (ie something with control in it) using people taken 'from the audience' is a pipe dream.

To put the problem in another perspective, I once had a prof describe EEG's to me as being akin to putting electrodes on the outside case of a computer, and trying to use that information to determine what's happening inside the microprocessor. And that would be simplifying things considerably.

So... ya. Cool art, but not much science. Not that it claimed any.
posted by Arandia at 6:12 PM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is this stuff of any therapeutic merit? I've heard stuff all over the map on it, from people saying it's homeopathy, but with electrodes to people saying that it's the next big thing in mental health.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:00 PM on February 4, 2010

Went to get my mind read one day... the psycic just stared at me for about an hour... Occasionally, telling me opinions about me, occasionally sharing vast insights, occasionally joking, occasionally snarking about the various reasons that people should not be on their lawn... but always sharing insight into the workings of the world; at long last, silently writing something down on a card. Four letters. These four letters must carry the key to my life, and an answer to all possible questions I will have.
I wonder what it means for me?

(NOT PSYCHIC-IST!! and never actually been to one either:)

It doesn't seem like it is a guaranteed impossibility to read a computer through the case... After all it wasn't that long ago that people realized they can 'sniff' what an older keyboard is typing from distances of 'rooms away' (the old wired kind, not even a wireless kind) so it seems realistic that it is only a matter of time (maybe having to use new technology) until someone learns to capture stray electrical signals from a computer chip.
Isn't the new x-prize or similar prize system a contest all about making a brain/'puter interface?
While I agree that expecting someone could just jump headfirst into doing this control of a computer via the electrical signals that come from our brains, (rather than the electrical signals that come from a multi-touch device, or a keyboard) successfully is not realistic, from some things I have seen about people and biofeedback systems, it would seem plausible that via training on a real time feedback system, could lead to individuals who would be more able to take "control" of a system like this than the average user.
We can slow our hearts, breathing, and thoughts, seems realistic that we can focus our brains to accomplish some task (especially with a good system of feedback and a good amount of time, training and practice) Remember that the system doesn't have to read specifics... just catch that there is 'some' 'activity' 'up there' 'in a particular region'... now I imagine that it is nearly impossible to know innately how to stimulate a particular region of the brain; but after hours and days of sitting, watching what lights up when various stimuli, or thoughts are used... This WILL be accomplished before we go to the moon again. (so er, I guess that means before like...2550 or so.)
As far as that contest goes, there seem to be quite a few different avenues approaching the idea of a brain/'puter interface or "bpi" as they shall henceforth be imagined to be called, if only by myself.
(cool link, thanks for sharing, who needs ai, we can just allow humans to sync up to computers and they can tell the computers what to compute. Also, I like that avenue more than the alternative of putting computer hard drives inside ourselves... why mess with our physiology when we can do the computing externally and just control it with our brains (I saw Johnny Pneumatic, I saw those nosebleeds, and the way that it made the star so vacuous that basically he went through the rest of his life just sayin' 'WOAHHHH' to be able to interact with it remotely... like the cloud, but future style, sounds good, looks good. We may not be there yet... but we're workin' on it.)
lol, er, that's Johnny Mnemonic... same diff.
posted by infinite intimation at 7:07 PM on February 4, 2010

This is awesome. Although it looks like these eeg headband things are expensive...
posted by mike_bling at 7:19 PM on February 4, 2010

If you wanted an extremely simple version of could always buy one of these and 'Hack' (lol@myself) it.
From everything I have seen, this arena is going to be a rapidly expanding field (lots of resources already going into R&D, and only expanding over the next few years)... but like everything else, I guess, it won't be in every general consumer product until the I-pad HW, 7th gen comes around (didn't we all just know it would be Mr. Jobs who ushers in the revolution of devices that run on the power of our electrical minds, and the only input and control method is hand waving.)
I for one would likely welcome mac weilding, Jobsian, Pseudo-jedi computer/human interface masters...
posted by infinite intimation at 8:49 PM on February 4, 2010

Mccarty.tim: I'm in EEG feedback therapy right now, and I have to say it's working, more than I thought it would actually. I was pretty skeptical at first, but curious enough to try it, and so far it's exceeded my expectation of noticeable effects. If you want to know more, send me a message and I'll be happy to give you more information.
posted by ohisee at 9:44 PM on February 4, 2010

infinite intimation:
You're quite right in that many signals (including brainwaves) are controllable with enough practice, and that this will likely lead to a "brain-puter-interface" - although right now the biggest stumbling block seems to be getting long-term implantable electrodes working (with regards to the aforementioned EEG problems, neuroscientists generally try and record from individual neurons directly - but unfortunately neurons don't like electrodes and keep dying). Once that's figured out, they've got my vote for shaping the future of humanity. I think the Matrix's makers were wrong, we won't be enslaved by machines; we will become the machines. And be much better off for it. [insert rant about how functioning bci's will ultimately lead to the singularity, etc.], but to get back to the task at hand, if you want I could explain to you in detail why going from leaky keyboards to EEGs on computers is, to understate, not such easy step. But it'd probably just end up being tl;dr for everyone :P. And furthermore, it's not a complete analogy of the problems facing EEG analysis.

Anyway, the basic problem I had with this system is that it seems to depend on getting usable data from untrained people, but in retrospect the other gaping technological flaw in it is that they're essentially "muddying" things by having a decidedly non-logical feedback loop - random clips from various media won't help you very much at all, and background noise is a huge factor in confusing it. Training EEG signals off of something like that (even with lots of practice) would be considerably harder than being asked to balance a bowling pin when the *only* feedback you have on it is a time-delayed audio track being recorded at the other end of the active bowling hall (no proprioception either). Tacking on something like this *after* the person was trained would be another matter, of course.

Ohisee, I'd be interested in knowing a little more, if you don't mind - but maybe I'll just send you a memail.
posted by Arandia at 1:42 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

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