Company Post

ThoughtForms | Visualize and 3D Print Your Thoughts

What would be the consequences of our most intimate feelings and memories becoming accessible by technology? Hold that thought…

THOUGHTFORMS is a collaboration between sensiLab and Monash Art, Design & Architecture.

Project artists: Kellyann Geurts (PhD candidate) & Dr Indae Hwang

PhD supervisor: Mark Guglielmetti

Specialised support in 3D printing: Elliott Wilson, sensiLab

Category: Art & Design, Research, Wearables

Derivative: As a participant what will I be doing?

In this project, you will wear an EEG brain sensor device that measures tiny electrical changes in your brainwaves. Using specialised software, this data is translated into abstract 3D forms. You will concentrate on building your own personalised thought-form, which can be 3D printed and taken home with you.

The recording will take approximately 5 minutes; your 3D thought-form will take between 15 – 20 minutes to print.

D: How did the project come about?

This collaborative project is based on Kellyann's PhD research: Imagining Thought in Digital Space. Kellyann and Indae are working together to realise the research project into 3D form.

This research project follows a long history of "picturing" thoughts in both art and science. From the late 19th century, photographic plates and film aimed to capture "vital sources" (thoughts, mental energy and dreams). In 1924 the first EEG machines recorded brainwaves and from this time, in scientific labs around the world today, neuroimaging techniques accurately measure, and even predict thought. Outside the labs, the recent trend of consumer wireless EEG devices now makes it possible to record impressions of our brain/mind responses to everyday stimulus, in a variety of domestic settings.

D: How is the brain wave activity converted into the shapes I see on the screen?

The wireless headset device, EMOTIV Insight, detects your brainwave data and this data is translated into the abstract forms you see on the screen using TouchDesigner.

We decided on TouchDesigner as the main platform to realise our conceptual idea as it provided the most reliable and robust performance in all stages, from retrieving data from an EEG device to creating and exporting a 3D Structure.

We use EMOTIV Insight as it is one of the latest devices to be released on to the market developed with crowdfunding through Kickstarter campaign. The device is relatively simple to use with five dry EEG sensors, quick to position, with good signal detection and connects to computer via Bluetooth.

TouchDesigner communicates with EMOTIV Insight via Open Sound Control protocol (OSC). TouchDesigner receives this real-time transmitted EEG data and uses it to create the abstract three-dimensional digital structure.

The 3D structure is formed through the accumulation of movements of a seed sphere. The movements of the sphere are determined by assigned EEG data from EMOTIV Insight. When visitors save their favourite 3D structure, TouchDesigner converts and exports the 3D structure as a file format for 3D printing.

D: What do the thoughtforms represent?

The abstract shapes on the screen change and respond to your thoughts to detect calm, attention, excitement, anxiety and focus.

Instructions for thought recording

  • After you are seated comfortably, you will be assisted to position the headset
  • The five sensors will be positioned to best detect signals from frontal, temporal and parietal regions of the brain
  • Once the headset is in place, the form on the screen will begin to be shaped by your brain/mind electrical activity in real time
  • You will be given a remote controller, press button 'A' to capture a thought (or a shape) you desire and the file will be saved for printing in 3D
  • Name and describe your thoughtform on the tags provided with they file number assigned to you
  • Your printed 3D form will be tagged and waiting for you to collect to take home if you wish

Special thanks to

Jon McCormack, sensiLab, Monash University

Monash Art, Design & Architecture

Monique Silk, Ryan Jefferies & Jacky Healy, Art in Biomedical Science Residency, St Vincent's Hospital and The University of Melbourne (Harry Brookes Allen Museum of Anatomy & Pathology and the Medical History Museum)

Andrea Chester & Helen McLean, Design and Social Context, RMIT University