In January we demoed a 3D thought-controlled experience at CES 2011, featuring artwork by the talented Alex McLeod. Having joined the company after the project was underway, I wanted to know how it started, and how Alex became involved. So I sat down with him over lunch and asked him all about his experience working on this project.
Alex is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design (now actually a university), which is where he met InteraXon’s creative director, Pantea. Last year at Interaction Toronto, a think tank for interactive thinkers, Pantea introduced Alex to our COO, Trevor. When he handed Alex his clear plastic business card that read “Thought-controlled computing,” Alex eyed it skeptically and said, “What do you really do?” Giving our Bright Ideas project a spin a little while after that, he learned first hand how our technology works. Fast forward to a few months ago, when Pantea called up Alex and asked if he wanted to collaborate with InteraXon on a really cool project. He was in.
When seeing his work for the first time, most people think he creates intricate miniature dioramas. Really his work is completely computer-rendered, and every aspect of his technique involves virtual technology—virtual lighting, and a virtual camera with adjustable settings like F-stop and shutter speed. For this project, his creative process changed significantly since he was creating an animated piece that was not only in 3D, but could be manipulated with the viewer’s brainwaves. A new dimension was added for him to think about the people on the other end manipulating his work. In his other animated pieces, the virtual camera normally goes through a scene in which all the elements move at the same time, but for this project he had to account for each element as really being independent from one other. And these independent elements are what our engineers had to take into consideration when embedding brainwave capabilities into Alex’s creation.
Depending on your brain state, the different elements behave differently—the clouds bounce, a boat rocks, and birds soar over the mountaintops. The colour of the landscape also changes in response to changing brainwave activity, and brainwave activity can change in response to colour in the visual field. Not only that, but the moving elements catch your attention and direct your eye gaze, which can alter your brainwave activity as well. Your brain state changes the environment, the environment changes your brain state—it’s a truly beautiful interactive experience.
While the consumer world got to take it for a spin at CES, the art world—a world we know and love—is itching to see this in a gallery show. Who knows if that will ever happen, but I’m sure there wouldn’t be a shortage of people lining up to try it out, myself included.