Week 4 Response: Lucid Touch

Dreaming has always been a subject of fascination due to the fact that we as humans have very little control over the content we experience and remember. One of the performance/installations mentioned in Stephen Wilson’s Information Arts created by Bruce Gilchrist and Johnny Bradley’s project enables an audience to communicate with a sleeping mind. The audience does this through a Morse-code-like device which sends mild voltage changes to a transcutaneous electrical neuro-stimulator worn by the sleeper. Expressions from the sleeper (collected through EEG brainwave states and galvanic skin response readings) are then displayed around the space and recreate a sleeping/tranced mind-brain. A similar project exhibited in 2005 and 2006 is “Lucid Touch”, created by artist Lynne Sanderson, sound designer/programmer Peter Sanson, and sleep scientist Dr. Cameron van den Heuvel, and biomedical engineer Olivia Pallotta.

“Lucid Touch is a bioreactive sculpture that induces emotion by contagion through using an affective feedback loop to control the flow of an audio-visual dream.” The installation basically recreates a dream state for a participant through the sense of touch. Bio-electrical arousal levels from that participant alters the stream of a dream experience; the mood of a simulated dream is controlled by the participant but the digital dreamer controls the participant’s emotional state. Real-time biological data (skin conductance response, heart rate, and body temperature) is collected from the participant through simple placement of a hand on the interface. This information is then translates to imagery seen as a dream by the participant. This dream is created using images, animation, digital video and sound and directly changes according to the participant’s reactive psychophysiological state. The interface also alternates between warmth/cold and vibration so that the participant can experience a sense of the machine being alive and interact with that. In the end, the participant can truly control their “dreams” with their bio-state.

Although Lucid Touch does not solve the mysteries of dreaming, it provokes thinking about emotional state and moods, which are usually seen as something that exist and are experienced but are not consciously thought about. However, someone’s mood can essentially “rub off” on another person and directly influence their emotional state. A huge part of communication is actually based on one’s emotional state- think about advertising and cinema and how they can induce emotion by contagion. Lucid Touch allows the participant to control their own mood through immediate bio-sensor data and ability to play with the mood of the dream. Imagine the possibilities of humankind if this technology were to be commercialized and highly utilized. It is a wonder how it has not come into play when everyone is striving to be “happy” all the time.

– Crystal Nguyen



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