ITP Spring Show 2009
Sunday, May 10, 2-6pm & Monday, May 11, 5-9 pm

Andrew Styer
Robert Carlsen


Inducing visual hallucinations with photic stimulation.

Thinking Physically

BlindSight aims to explore synesthesia by associating certain body positions with visual hallucinations induced by photic stimulation. In other words, flashing lights at various frequencies seems to cause visual patterns to appear for the viewer. Simple wearable sensors adjust the frequency of the flashes and thus provide various patterns.

In the September 2008 edition of the journal Cortex, Dominic H. ffytche describes a study which employed flashing goggles to induce visual hallucinations for the purpose of analyzing brain activity with MRI. The study indicates that flashing frequencies between 5-30Hz at a certain intensity caused participants to describe perceiving hallucinations (Purkinje patterns) and produced a measurable change in the brain activity.

Although the patterns may differ for each viewer, they seem to be the consistent for the viewer at a given frequency. Based on this observation, we hope to create a relationship between the user’s body movements and the corresponding changes in visual hallucinations. The ideal scenario would be to enable a user to generate an association between certain Purkinje patterns and the orientation of the body relative to itself, thus representing a small portion of our sense of proprioception.

Much of this project stems from several separate influences. First, the protagonist of William Gibson’s “Neuromancer” uses electrodes/glasses to jack into cyberspace, which is depicted as a three-dimensional space largely visualized as colored geometric shapes. Second, Robert’s general jealousy of individuals whom describe themselves as synesthetes, those who experience certain senses crossing over, ie. seeing certain letters as colored or hearing certain visual motion. Finally, Andy’s interest in sensing body movement as a system rather than as isolated and disjointed movements.