Our concept for the final assignment was similar to our original plan for the first BCI assignment that we could not get to work. This new plan also included adding a physical component to the project. Determined to make it work, we continued to push our skills.
The first attempt at prototyping, we created an Open Framworks program that played a sound file whenever the meditation level reached a certain point. This prototype did not work well and seemed glitchy.
Next we tried to use the ToneAC library in arduino. We successfully got the code to run, but it too was spotty and very electronic sounding. Arduino Prototype
Moving forward we began looking back into processing libraries, as it was simpler to code in. Eventually we agreed it was easier and we’d have more potential for growth if we used our own code in Open Frame works. We began by building a simple line that adjusted with the tone and frequency of the wave. Sample video can be found here. The code can be found here. We could not use this for our project because we could not make multiple lines that connected tonally and linear to other neural oscillations.
The next step we took to incorporate all the brainwaves with their individual sound frequencies was to map their motions to a bouncing ball that plays the equivalent note to each peak. This gave us more of an effect and we were able to have multiple headset inputs, so people could play together. Unfortunately, most of the time it just sounds like dissonant melodies. The code can be found here, and the video here.
I took this project further in my Major Studio collaboration with Gabrielle Patacsil. Gabrielle took the code even further while I created hardware hacks to emphasize the mindscape. Here is our documentation and video.
Music has a profound effect on one’s body and psyche. As with any physiological rhythm, a strong beat or counter rhythm can simulate a change in their tempos. Brainwave Music Therapy (BTM) uses tones that prompt the brain to synchronize its electrical pulses with the pitch of the tones. Changes in electrical pulses can trigger the user into meditative, calm, alert, or sharper concentrative states.
The therapeutic experience relies on repetition and awareness of self. Through creating a physical artifact of a person’s brainwave composition, we create an opportunity to revisit the mind and give an instance of reflection. The object magnifies the alpha-theta waves in auditory and physical form to influence a state of relaxation and awareness.
“The neocortex is responsible for sensory perception, recognition of everything from visual objects to abstract concepts, controlling movement, reasoning from spatial orientation to rational thought, and language…” Kurzweil works with this notion of hierarchal patterns (written, spoken, and visual) when explaining the ways of thinking. He is shaping one’s visual and perceptual understanding of brain activity, and essentially creating a form for thought – “…the goal of the effort is to refine our model to account for how the brain processes information to produce cognitive meaning.” Therefore, it is important to read the text with an understanding of how one must abstract reality in order to explain it.
This idea goes hand in hand with how he relates to pattern recognition in memory and language. He notes that our memories are organized as patterns of lists. These patterns are generated through experience and given a certain weight due to individual values. However, these memories are not necessarily visual. When recalling a memory and relaying it to another, these patterns aggregate and reconstruct a memory though a visual or linguistic imagination – “you will essentially be reconstructing…images in your mind, because the actual images do not exist.”
This acquisition of knowledge creates a fundamental understanding of how the neocortex operates through one’s reality. Its potential to shape one’s understanding of the self parallels the potential to alter one’s reality. Over time, we will see how the evolution of understanding the brain may change our associations with each other and with ourselves. It’s the ongoing conversation between scientists and technologists that is most beneficial in understanding our brains. It is this dialogue that will keep us from overly formalizing the brain, as it will open up a space for the abstract thinking.