Hack the Brain with LSE

27 April, 2015 by Dimitry Ivanov | EventsUser Experience

At 18:00 a few Fridays ago, as Audrius was finishing his burrito, Ed and I were gathering the required tools and packing them in a large, plastic container. At 18:15, Audrius arrived with his associate and the four of us promptly entered a black vehicle. Destination: Somerset House. Objective: Hack the Brain.

We arrived to find a large number of attendees from a range of backgrounds, from neuroscience and psychology postgrads to software developers. People had travelled from around the UK and Europe to take part in the hackathon (organized by the London School of Economics). We kicked off with each group presenting their ideas on what they would like to do in the following 48 hours. A voting process narrowed it down to ten teams, us being one of them. It wouldn’t feel right if Ed wasn’t doing the Oculus Rift demo, so he did and a queue to try it out immediately formed.

Following a 10pm finish, we returned to Somerset House at 9am the next day. Although Ed made an escape to the slopes of Slovakia, we had recruited an additional team member, making us two Lithuanians and two Russians on a quest to create an experience that the brain couldn’t forget. Thus, “In the Rift” was born and developed (over large amounts of pastries, fruit, snacks and coffee). We decided to use everything we had at hand:

·         Oculus Rift

·         Emotiv headset

·         Leap Motion

·         Binaural sound

·         Unity 3D

This allowed the traveller to experience a different world… As you put earphones in, put the Emotiv headset on, followed by the Oculus goggles, you find yourself in the dark, on a bridge to an island. You concentrate with your mind to create light and explore the surreal tropical environment, stumbling upon the power of your hand – lift your real hand to see it in the virtual reality, where a fireball is projected. You come to find a gathering of chairs in a circle, with a fire at the centre, and wonder what this might lead to. As you venture towards the abandoned pirate ship, suddenly a large dark figure appears to be coming your way – there’s two, there’s three, there’s many more. You keep concentrating to allow you to see, while twitching your hand to launch as many fireballs as you can, watching them annihilate. When it seems you’ve gained control of the island, a voice comes from somewhere… it feels like someone is standing behind you and whispering into your ear – the enemy has found you.

On Sunday evening we had the chance to present our work in front of a panel, followed by other teams and numerous demos to fellow hackers, their guests and journalists. While we didn’t win, the experience and the feedback from others was really positive and we took the first step in creating a new kind of immersive experience that completely absorbs the player in an exotic, virtual world.

For more information about the hackathon, click here.

A virtual reality, gesture and mind controlled experience called In The Rift, demonstrated at the HackTheBrain event.

Video: https://vimeo.com/122902625

Media coverage:

http://www.idgconnect.com/blog-abstract/9663/the-uk-hack-brain-event

http://motherboard.vice.com/read/brain-hackathon-hacking-brainwaves-to-extend-the-mind

http://news.sky.com/video/1454154/swipe-investigates-brain-hacking