Behind the scenes at Hack The Brain...

Science Gallery Dublin intern Grace Dunleavy decribes a hackathon weekend full of art, tech and brain signals...

So… what happens when we combine art and creativity with neurotechnology? That’s exactly what we were asking of the hackers who descended on Science Gallery Dublin last weekend. Our hackathon groups were made up of a diverse range of artists, designers, neuroscientists, experimental psychologists, engineers and developers, all eager to experiment with art and science using brain signals.

Friday was full of anticipation and enthusiasm as our team leaders presented their unique and innovative projects to their fellow hackers. With ideas ranging from how touch can be translated into data, and the effect of technology on our relationships to sharing our perceptual experiences with others, there was plenty to pique hackers’ interests. With a multitude of different skills in the room, it wasn’t long before everyone had found a team that suited their talents.

Early Saturday morning, with the teams assembled and minds fully fuelled after a hearty (and quite likely caffeine-fueled) breakfast, it was time to commence the hacking. After a quick brainstorming session, the teams got straight to work. The afternoon was packed full of brain-measuring experiments, with electrodes and brain waves making an appearance at every desk. Our hackers worked up until the late evening, only occasionally leaving their desks for some much needed sustenance, and of course some more caffeine! At the end of the day, all the projects were shaping up to be interesting pieces of collaboration between art and science.

Sunday consisted of the last few hours of hacking and the final dash for our hackers to complete their prototypes. The big final pitches kicked off in the evening, where the teams got a chance to present all their hard work. The winners were Harmonics of the Brain, whose project involved converting exported brain waves into sound. The combination of sounds that were generated reflected the experience and observations of the person being recorded.

They were followed by the first second runners up Human CentipEEG, which involved three individuals, who by virtue of their EEG (their brain activity), effectively became one organism, responding to multisensory inputs in real time. Shared Senses were the second runners-up and explored whether brain measurements can create the experience of being touched.

A successful weekend of experimentation, collaboration and of course, hacking was undoubtedly had by all! It provided a great opportunity to network and to liaise with a diverse group of very talented people.

Grace Dunleavy is a science communicator and intern at Science Gallery Dublin.