Mind Wave Cave

The science of imagination

We're really interested in how digital technologies can be harnessed to create human-centred experiences that bridge the digital / physical divide. In a design context there's loads of scope for using digital processes to immerse the audience in the work itself and make them a part of what is being created.

Heart Bot, for example, is a robot that artistically renders a person's heartbeat as a drawing.

Whilst Monolitt literally paints the mood of the city, lending a physical presence to otherwise transient social media feeds. Both projects hint at the rich creative and emotive landscape that exists at the point where digital and physical collide.

This interaction of digital and physical worlds is something we're always keen to explore in our work, through projects such as New Work All Play for Bruntwood.

More recently we were invited to create a piece for Design Manchester's 10 x 10 exhibition, and thought it was a prime opportunity to explore this rich territory once more. The remit for the exhibition was simple: we had to collaborate with another local creative, and our work had to explore this year's festival theme 'Science of Imagination'.

That got us thinking about glue, a locally developed technology that enables 'online bonding for people and things'. Using inputs like text messages or tweets, glue enables a person to control a predetermined aspect of their surroundings to make something potentially exciting happen! glue in itself is a collaborative project, which grew from David Boultbee / BREAD's participatory digital, public realm arts practice and is now being developed with 24 Design. Like us, they're interested in how digital technologies can be used to encourage people to explore and develop their connection to places through play.

It seemed like a good fit, but since this was all about the science of imagination we wanted to go a step further. Text messages and tweets are all well and good, but could glue allow people to control their environments using their brain? After a little experimentation with some off-the-shelf neurotechnology (yes, there is such a thing as affordable brain tech!), and some controllable LED lights, we had our answer: an interactive installation controlled by the power of the mind!

Dubbed the Mind Wave Cave, the installation invites audience members to create unique light projections dictated by their brainwaves; essentially creating a completely responsive, highly personal and ultimately transitory work of art.

A MindWave headset reads the participant's brain activity to monitor fluctuating levels of focus and meditation. These readings are then used by glue to control ambient coloured lights, which move organically back and forth between shades of red (focus) and blue (meditation) in response to the readings. When the user is able to equally balance both, a rainbow of colour flashes before their eyes to signify that 'Eureka!' moment.

The installation aims to help the audience visualise the process of imagination, connecting them to an emotive physical experience using digital technologies.

In David's words, Mind Wave Cave demonstrates how powerful a reasonably simple interaction can be. We don't see any reason why we couldn't scale this up to light an entire building or other architectural element, meaning you could control the city just by thinking... imagine that!


Michelle Collier

Date published

09 October 2014