Paras Kaul’s “Mind Garden” was a project that drew my attention due to its description as a “3-dimensional audio, visual, and neurolinguistic journey”. This was a description written in 1997, and it seemed very ahead of its time. The project simulates an environment based on readings from an electroencephalogram. It uses brain wave analysis and a variety of medias in order to attempt to interpret the thoughts of the participant. Based on the interpretation of the participant’s brain waves, the program develops forms and objects which the user may then experience. To me, this sounds like a limitless and amazing technological development. While “Mind Garden” was limited to a fractal garden, I would like to experience an even wider scope of virtual environments.
A funny condition with the project is that the clarity of the environment is heavily dependent on the participant’s ability to emit alpha and theta brain waves. These brain waves are associated with complex thought, making the project rely very much on the ability of the user. Therefore, the creators avoid blame; if you have a lackluster experience as a participant, it was due to your incompetence at releasing the correct brainwaves.
Walking around in a world that you have created through your own thoughts sounds amazing. The most primitive versions of this technology was limited to simple shapes and forms, but imagine the possibilities of an updated, graphically powerful program.
I’m fascinated that a project like this was a vision eighteen years ago. The program was developed for the sake of demonstrating the potential of brainwave interactive learning and healing, which had only recently emerged at the end of the twentieth century. With augmented reality and brainwave interpretation having a strong presence at CES last month, it seems that the experience of Kaul’s project, in regards to brainwave interpretation and 3d environmental systems is reaching greater levels of refinement. Emotiv Insight, a crowdfunded EEG headset, is a prime example of the advancements in brainwave technology while Oculus Rift is a electronic headset which hopes revolutionize augmented reality and artificial environments.
Emotiv Insight is a wearable electronic headset that tracks brainwaves through EEG and produces meaningful data that supposedly helps improve one’s mental fitness and health. They were funded by Kickstarter pledges in 2013, showing the considerable interest of the public in the type of product, as well as how crowdfunding may support technical and artistic pursuits in the future. You can check out some information about Insight here:
The Oculus Rift attempts to create an augmented reality experience. It is one that is primarily focused on gaming, but also supports augmented reality in general. I feel that Insight and Oculus are present-day equivalents to Kaul’s “Mind Garden”. It’s nice to see that interest is still strong in these fields, and I hope to try simulations that come about in the future.
Both technologies are exciting, yet I foresee objections to their implementation from a wary public. Virtual environments and augmentation can potentially blur the lines between reality and fiction. Also, playing with brainwaves is a very unnatural process, which could discourage some people from wanting to be involved. To a more extreme sense, it could even lead to social ostracizing if those seen using these future technologies are seen as something robotic and nonhuman in nature.
Still, I’m hopeful of the advances in the studies of brain waves, virtual environments, and the adventures they may bring.