Dreams on screens: Movie fans to ‘control film with brain waves’ as Manchester project turns sci-fi into reality

The ability to flip a car with brainwaves is still the stuff of dreams – but a Manchester collective are giving you the power to take control of their film with your mind.

AlbinoMosquito are looking to redefine how audiences view films from their studio in Z-Arts building in Hulme by letting them control their movie experience #scanners with brain waves.

Following a successful Kickstarter to raise £3,500 and bring their dream into reality, the group, headed by duo Richard Ramchurn and Jonathan McGrath, are hoping to be at the forefront of the medium’s future.

And the pair, who have always thought it would be ‘awesome’ to flip a car in their comfortable setting of a more traditional theatre, now want brain wave technology to tell tales to movie-goers with the goal of ‘everyone seeing something which is unique’.

Taking on-board research from the likes of brain scan pioneer Shinji Nishimoto, who leads research on ‘internal vision’ and screening from the inside of someone’s brain, the project will take the technology seeping into medical and gaming fields and bring it to a theatre near you.

Planned for a spring 2015 release, creative director Richard told MM that the project gives him a chance to essentially create a ‘lucid dream’ – and after a prototype showing at W00t Festival in Copenhagen, some audiences have already drawn the same comparison.

When testers also walked out of a ’dream’, Richard knew AlbinoMosquito, the moniker he has been operating under since 2002, was on the right track.

“It was unexpected,” said the 36-year-old.

“In this project, I would like to make a film that has been created in somebody’s brain.

“When I found out that this is the future and where science is going, I thought I have to get involved in this. It is the future. It is scary what has been done so far.”

BRAINS BEHIND IT ALL: Creative Director Richard Ramchurn

With a prototype in the bag in which users can control and edit by blinking in a ‘cinema’ for one person, Richard, who graduated in Illustration and Animation from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2000, admits the group have ‘all the tools to do the job and know it works’.

“The other feedback we got back was narrative. Our dreams aren’t abstract, they have a narrative and I felt like ‘can we use this technology to tell a narrative?’” said Richard, who came up with the concept after reading In the Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch.

“It’s going to be a challenge to do it, definitely, but that’s what the Kickstarter was for, allowing exploration of narrative looking at more than just cutting. Making different choices and exploring when we are engaging with it.”

And the future has moved closer for the group after they secured funding success.

The Kickstarter funding was almost a nightmare though and only achieved after a nail-biting finish with seconds to spare as they topped their £3,500 goal by just £31.

It was all too much for Richard, who opted for a bike ride during the crowdfunding crunch time to take his mind off the matter.

And he and fellow Jonathan even resorted to an impromptu puppet show to give their funding bid a final push.

the final update from AlbinoMosquito on Vimeo.

“It was our first Kickstarter and we made a lot of mistakes,” admitted Richard.

“Because the project had pretty much come to a halt at that point and we needed the funding and we couldn’t really update as nothing was happening without it.

“We had nothing to lose. And it was close, really close. Down to the last second.”

With the Kickstarter funds pocketed, a decision on Arts Council England funding to be completed by the end of the summer and other partners on-board with non-financial support, there are more than just brains behind the project.

After kicking off work on the project, Richard is now in a position to begin penning the narrative in mid-August with production pencilled in for September and October while developing the software at the same time.

Currently drawing inspiration from his own upbringing in Scotland, the narrative is the next step on the road to helping Richard achieve an ambition he has had since the idea formed in his own brain.

IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE: Richard came up with the concept after reading Walter Murch’s famous novel

“To make a film that has been created in someone else’s brain, I’d love to do that,” Richard said.

“And putting things in (to the brain) as well as take things out is kind of the holy grail of this whole thing.”

Once the film and technology is up to speed by the beginning of next year, AlbinoMosquito can kit out the caravan as their very own one-person touring cinema in time for launch, with plans afoot to boost the number of viewers to ten.

With Neurosky SDK headsets currently costing around £100 and another £10 for the chip, Richard accepts ‘these things are not exactly flying at the moment’.

But with wearable technology, like Google Glass and the Oculus Rift VR headset, making a push into the mainstream consciousness, AlbinoMosquito’s brainwave might soon be an everyday occurrence for film freaks.

And the potential for the technology is virtually endless, as fellow Kickstarter project, the literally-titled Throw Trucks With Your Mind demonstrates, earning $35,000 (£20,000).

It may share a name with David Cronenberg’s cult cranium-busting 1981 B-movie, but this technology will not make your head explode.

“No it won’t,” said Richard, allaying any brain-booming fears.

“Not many people get that reference, which I think is quite funny.

“It also gives us that bit of danger in it. There’s also that level of expectation that we have a responsibility for because technology has sort of crossed over into magical territory, whereas I’m trying not to make it a trick.

“We’d love to record dreams. That would be awesome. And to sculpt something with your imagination by basically thinking about it would be incredible.”

Images courtesy of Kickstarter, with thanks

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