Stories and BCI — Immersive Storytelling.

So what’s the deal with stories?

“Story, as it turns out, has been a very crucial part of our evolution. Even more so than opposable thumbs. Opposable thumbs let us hang on to something, Story told us what to hang on to.” — Lisa Cron, Wired for Story

Stories are the patterns that our brain recognizes amongst the noise of the world. Patterns such as a face, a rock, a sound, a smell etc. And the impulse of recognizing these patterns and correlating them in the form of stories is very strong in our brain.

“Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form.” — Jean Luc Godard

Photo by Victoria Alexander on Unsplash

Stories are a currency that is universal and most valuable. The way they are told evolves with the medium of telling, that is, the tech. Evolutions in technology have highly impacted the forms of narrative. It started with cave paintings, evolved to printed novels and further evolved to cinema and sitcoms. Now, with internet and smartphones, stories have a whole-new meaning. (self-destructing shit-posts which expire within 24 hours.) Nevertheless, stories now seem to be more immersive in the form of 3D movies and highly detailed videogames.

But like time and tide, technology keeps changing. The latest research in the field of brain-computer interface gives rise to a new form of story telling. The most ultimate form of storytelling, in which the relation between the teller and the listener grows so close that they both become one. The listener is the teller and the teller is the listener.

The human brain is the most powerful computational unit, capable of processing exabytes of information, drawing its own conclusions and last but definitely not the least, telling itself stories. Even when the human body sleeps the brain lays awake all night, telling itself stories. So why not make it the story teller. What if we could somehow track our brainwaves, interpret them in the form of visuals, and actually SEE what we THINK. Imagine the feeling of experiencing a story that is totally controlled by your mind.

Immersive story-telling is a method of involving the audience with the story. A way for them to carve out a role for themselves, to be a part of it. Maybe to make it their own and run away with it?

Richard Ramchurn, an artist and director, spent the last few years making films that you can control with your mind. His latest film, called The Moment, can be seen on a $100 headset that taps your brain activity on the bases of electric signals.

With this EEG headset on, scenes, music, and animation change every time you watch it. It maps your attention level and alters the scenes and background scores to provide a whole new version of the film. And its all led by your mind. According to Ramchurn, the film gives the audience a chance to edit it by consciously thinking about it or even by responding to what is happening in it. Creating a sort of two-way feedback loop.

“The film changes how you feel, and how you feel changes because of the film.”— Richard Ramchurn

This gives an entirely different approach to story telling. It gives the audience a chance to be inside the story and change it according to themselves, maybe even make it their own. This will make an enormous impact in the way humans understand and interact with stories and the brain.

The purpose of a story is to engage the mind, and BCI provides the platform to do so. It is going to be very interesting to see what the future will behold, equipped with this technology. And it will be more interesting to see what stories it will tell.

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Shaunak Inamdar

Shaunak Inamdar is a CS undergrad with a passion for writing about technologies and making them accessible to a broader audience. www.shaunak.tech