The Latest in EEG Art
From time to time brainwaves make waves (or at least ripples) in the art world. I stumbled across a couple of examples last week. The first is Lucas Maassen’s “Brain Wave Sofa,” a sofa whose shaped was produced from Maassen’s EEG when he thought the word “comfort.” The work “is a tongue-in-cheek reference to a futuristic production workflow in which the designer only has to close his eyes and a computer ‘prints’ the result out as a functional form.” It is currently on display at New York’s Museum of Art and Design. The text at the museum describing the couch is a bit misleading in that it suggests that a very different couch would have been produced had Maassen thought of a different word. He would have gotten a similar looking couch no matter what he was thinking. However, if the designer would have blinked once or twice, he could have added a backrest.
The other piece of EEG creativity is the “brain stethoscope,” an invention of Stanford’s Chris Chafe and Josef Parvizi. Chafe has made a name for himself turning all sorts of data (e.g., CO2 levels near ripening tomatoes) into music. Parvizi, a neurologist and neuroscientist, teamed up with Chafe to musicalize EEG. If you simply turn EEG into an audio file, it doesn’t sound like much because most of the signal is at frequencies below what our auditory system is sensitive to. If you speed up raw EEG to make it more audible, it sounds mostly like wind. To make the structure of EEG more apparent to the ear, Chafe extrapolated features from the EEG and fed them through a music synthesizer. The result sounds like an insect annoying a cyborg (click on the video below to hear). While this might not set your toes a-tapping, the inventors hope it could be of clinical use, helping physicians unskilled in reading EEG to better identify abnormalities such as seizures.