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New brain-controlled film lets you choose the storyline


Technology and the human brain

What if the next time you stifled a yawn in the cinema, the plot of the film suddenly changed to try and regain your attention? 

That's the idea behind an innovative new brain-controlled film project created by University of Nottingham Computer Science PhD researcher Richard Ramchurn. Picking up reactions from the viewer via an EEG headset, The MOMENT is designed to switch the storyline depending on their response. During the film, viewers wear small sensors attached to the scalp to pick up 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. 

Controlling the narrative

The MOMENT 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 possibility of six combinations, which means in over 18 scenes there are 101 trillion possible combinations for each viewing. 

Richard explains: "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 a rise of far right ideologies.

"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. However, if they see more of the secondary thread, the next scene will replace the primary thread with the unseen thread."

Real-time personalisation

The data from the viewings will form the basis of Richard's PhD thesis, studying how people react to the trend of real-time personalisation. 

Richard comments: "From interrogating the practice of making The MOMENT, we're able to explore what considerations and implications are implicit in the construction of an interactive brain-controlled film. We've made a film that both minimises narrative disruption from interactive behaviours and encourages comprehension by utilising familiar filmic storytelling techniques. 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." 

Posted on Thursday 31st May 2018

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