Home Entertainment VIDEO: The Moment, a brain-controlled film where your mind changes the movie

A new brain controlled film called "The MOMENT" has been launched, which picks up reactions from the viewer via an EEG headset and switches the storyline depending on your brain's EEG response.

A uniquely interactive film has been developed by University of Nottingham Computer Science PhD researcher and Creative Director Richard Ramchurn, and was officially launched last week at Sheffield Doc/Fest which ends today in the UK.

From there, the movie will tour the UK in a specially adapted caravan that has been transformed into a mobile cinema, although there are plans for an interactive version on the Internet that will be available to anyone worldwide.

So, how does the movie change via your brain signals?

Well, you end up wearing a device called the Mindwave Mobile 2 from a company called Neurosky, which not only makes headsets that can read brainwaves, called electroencephalogram biosensors, but also electrocardiogram biosensors used in phones, smartwatches and other devices to check all manner of bodily activity, from heartrate, stress, fatigue, sleep tracking, blood pressure, attention and much more.

The EEG or electroencephalogram sensor is used to record your brain activity.

During the film, we're told that "viewers will wear small sensors attached to the scalp to pick up the electrical signals produced when brain cells send messages to each other. As people watch the film small drops in attention will alter the signals and trigger a change in the story the film shows".

Now, as an article in The Verge explains, these devices aren't being used to read your thoughts, but with Neurosky saying its headset's sensors detect faint brainwave signals safely and passively, with the Neurosky technology interpreting the meaning of these brain signals, the software takes these signals and the app makes a change like you would by otherwise pressing a button, and in this case the movie changes to a different scene, or changes the musical score, or otherwise changes to be different to what it was before – all based on your brainwave state.

There have also been movies that can be controlled by an app on viewers' phones, and even movies in the 90s where the direction a movie took could be changed by joysticks, but given these forms of movie viewing clearly haven't taken off in today's cinemas, a brain controlled movie would appear to be the logical next step in interactivity.

The movie's author and director, Ramchurn, said: “The MOMENT is an interactive film which is controlled via data from a EEG headset which picks up unconscious reactions and changes the narrative thread in response. The story explores three narrative threads in a dystopian future world in which brain-computer interfaces are both a source of social threat and potential revelation. As a piece of science fiction the film speaks about the present. Our relationship with each other via social media and the facilitation of rise of far right ideologies.”

When people watch, only one person is the controller, although Ramchurn has experimented with situations where three people wear headsets and each controlled a single aspect of the movie, such as sound, the scenes being shown and the blending of layers, but in practice, the movie's path is one you perform personally with your brain.

Multiple story combinations

Because the movie is The MOMENT, it is "different each time it is watched, as the media adapts to the viewers attention levels, when the system detects a drop in attention it will cut to another narrative thread. Each scene has a possible of six combinations, which means in over 18 scenes there are 101 trillion possible combinations for each viewing".

To make this possible in a 27-minute film, Ramchurn had to create three times the material he creates normally, and six times the amount of sound.

He explains: “Where the viewer has a lot of variance in their attention the film will cut quickly between the primary and secondary narrative threads, if the viewer sees more of the primary thread the next scene will remain in the same combination, if however, they see more of the secondary thread the next scene will replace the primary thread with the unseen thread.

The data from the viewings will form the basis for Richard’s PhD thesis, he says: “The intention of making this work now, is to study how people react to the trend of real-time personalisation and myriad possible recombination’s of. This platform will allow us to study interactions with a system that allows for passive interactivity, and how that can be used to produce narrative work, add value and encourage multiple viewings."

From interrogating the practice of making The MOMENT we are able to explore what considerations and implications are implicit in the construction of an interactive brain controlled film. The film and interactive system builds on previous work carried out in 2016. Ramchurn says he has "made a film that both minimises narrative disruption from interactive behaviours and encourages comprehension by utilising familiar filmic storytelling techniques".

The website for the film is called Brain Controlled Movie where you can learn more and watch the trailer that is also embedded below.

Also search for an article from the MIT Technology Review where the journalist, Rachel Metz, has experienced two different versions of the movie, controlled by someone else, and has a great write-up of the entire experience here.

Here's the trailer:

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

 

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