Art That Really Touches You

Composer Alexis Kirke creates music that changes in response to listeners’ physical states, as tracked by biosensors. Others are working on similar experiments:

In 2011, tech firm Sensum debuted its interactive horror film Unsound at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. The firm uses galvanic skin response sensors to alter film content to heighten – or reduce – emotional reaction to it. For my own short film, Many Worlds, algorithms use brainwaves, muscle tension, perspiration and heart rate in a selection of the audience to adjust the story in real time, choosing the most appropriate of the film’s four narratives to maximize intensity.

Writing this kind of multiple narrative is a challenge, and one that science fiction author Hannu Rajaniemi has tackled with technologist Samuel Halliday for an e-book project called Neurofiction. The first short story, Snow White is Dead, has 48 different narrative paths, selected automatically based on the results of an EEG brainwave monitor attached to the computer on which the e-book is being read. “Readers have been enthusiastic – several commented that they found the story very moving,” says Rajaniemi.