After constructing the Fish-brain-machine PCB circuits we spent some time experimenting and describing the hallucinogenic visuals created by the stroboscopic light. The ping pong balls over the eyes diffuse the LED light, making for a more intense effect – and enabling use with eyes open. Here they describe some of the effects including seeing colours and ‘a strange experience’ of seeing with only one eye – I get this exact same feeling when using it. It is also hard to know if your eyes are open or closed. [See also Re-mapping the senses workshop ]
Here are the outcomes from a simple experiment, superimposed from 8 participants. The experiment is described in the paper “the tickly homunculus and the origins of spontaneous sensations arising on the hands” in which you focus on your hand while staring at it (convergent focusing) or divergent focusing (staring at red marker next to the hand you are focussing on) for just 10 seconds and report the sensations…
In this experiment, many of the bemused participants described a tingling where the hand made contact with the table. They were bemused because I did this experiment in the context of our methods and methodologies discussion group – where I was attempting to present my project. I thought it would be interesting to experience, ‘first hand’ the type of phenomenological experiments I’m looking at, and ‘practising’…
Fish-Brain-Machine circuit The Fish-Brain-Machine circuit represents biology of an electro-genic fish known as the Black Ghost Knife Fish. These fish navigate with electrical fields generated from within their bodies. Their skin is used as a receptor to see the world around them.
The Enki project used the electrical signals from these fish to control stroboscopic flashing lights that create hallucinogenic visual patterns, that in turn affect our brain states*. Sweat sensors send a signal back to the fish, creating an interconnected loop of biofeedback between the human and fish.
This Fish-Brain-Machine circuit senses sweat levels on your fingertips to control the stroboscopic LEDs. Place this over the eyes, sit back and experience hallucinogenic visuals. The Circuit represents the Enki project in miniature and was designed in collaboration with Marc Dusseiller as part of the Enki exhibition Kapellica Gallery, Ljubljana, Slovenia. Link to Enki Project 2012… See the original Post…
As part of my Enki exhibition at Kapellica Gallery in Ljubljana 2012, I developed a related perceptual illusions and brain hacks workshop with Marc Dusseiller [Hackteria], as part of the gallery’s Biotech program. We came up with the idea to make a special issue circuit for the workshop and we set to work designing a circuit the encapsulated the Enki project in miniature.
After a couple late nights, we came up with this super cool PCB design. Marc worked hard to create a fully functional efficient design, which was also aesthetically pleasing. The outline of the fish is also the ground in the circuit. This has to be the most ultra minimal brain-machine available to build. 6 components. We spent further late nights acid etching the circuits for the workshop in Marc’s home lab.
It uses ‘biofeedback’ to control the pulse frequency of the lights, low tech Galvanic skin response. Your fingertips press on the fingerprint, acting like a simple resistance meter, sensing the sweat levels to control strobe frequency [specifically 10-30htz to create hallucinations] of two ultra-bright LEDs to create the optical stimulation. The capacitor and resistor set the standby slow pulse and the range within the level necessary to cause visual hallucination. The design incorporates measurement graduations for eye spacing so you can personalise LED placement to fit your eyes.
It’s possible to use extra LEDs and several colours. After soldering the 6 components its possible to layback and experience your own personal electronic psychedelic experience.
Your hand is placed inside a box, while the other hand turns a crank. On top of the box, another rubber hand is placed. This is where Lin’s experiment takes on its own twist; on top of the rubber hand is a piece of moss. Fixating on this, and turning the crank, a copper disk rotates. A delicate metal bead curtain brushes over the moss, and over the fingers of the false hand. Simultaneously the hidden real hand receives the same treatment. If the illusion works for you, ownership begins to drift from your real hand to the fake hand. Specifically, the moss begins to feel like it is part of your own hand. [if you are not familiar with the Rubber Hand Illusion check this post]
This has made me reflect on the use of the crank as a convenient mechanism of ‘interaction’. For example; In the RHI synchronous tapping and stroking is essential to generate the illusion. A direct and tangible relationship between what is seen and felt.
Its difficult for the experimenter to replicate this manually, thus a system that can deliver this automatically could useful. It could also be useful in terms of ‘Augmented Virtuality’ interacting with real-world objects in virtual space.
The crank ensures the participant has their hands arm and body in a certain position. And they probably know how to operate the crank intuitively.
The above sketch shows an idea for an experiment: A version of Lin Charlstons device scaled up to resemble a version of body swap illusion [ Henrik Ehrsson and Olaf Blanke http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-08/ucl-foe081407.php]. In which a VR headset was linked to a live camera feed whereby the participant can view their own body, but from a few meters behind themselves. The experimenter taps their back with a stick. In this crank operated version:
A person turns a crank.
In front of them is a box with an eyepiece into which they look.
As they turn the crank, an articulated human model inside the box also turns a crank in synchronisation.
The crank turns a ball on a post gently taps both model and participant on the back.
We could try the same arrangement as a physical model, a virtual model viewed in VR. Or linked video, in which the playback is synced exactly with the movement of the crank. How powerful would the effect be? What other Stimuli could be incorporated instead of a tapping ball.
I have experienced something similar in action through an artwork by painter Iain Nicholls and creative technologist Tom Szirtes. ‘Veil’ is a virtual reality work that references early filmmaking, fairgrounds, and the paintings of Velazquez, David Fredrick and Holbein. The site-specific installation includes a cardboard model house sitting on a plinth and a virtual reality headset which the visitor is invited to wear.
But there is a handle to turn as well, therefore, I would say this verges on Augmented virtuality. I found it to be a powerful effect. I will be writing about this installation and others for the next post…