SXSW Interactive 2015

Dr. Brainlove: Interactive Neuroscience Vehicle


In this session, we will describe the making of Dr. Brainlove, a mobile neuroscience exhibit that interactively displays models of brain activity on a giant (27'x19'x15') climbable brain. After its debut at Burning Man 2014, Dr. Brainlove will travel to science festivals in the Bay Area. The steel mesh brain of Dr. Brainlove is covered in programmable LEDs connected with fiber optic cables that simulate real neural activity and respond interactively to visual, auditory, and EEG inputs. Dr. Brainlove was created by the Phage, a diverse consortium of scientists, engineers, and artists dedicated to science outreach at Burning Man. All the work involved in making Dr. Brainlove was done on a volunteer basis: project management, structural construction, lighting and input processing, sound system, fundraising, marketing, training, and operations. We will describe how the community of diverse experts came together to plan and deliver Dr. Brainlove.

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  1. How does a community (as opposed to a business) organize to effectively deliver a complex, multi-faceted project such as Dr Brainlove? The work streams included: project management, structure, lighting and input processing, sound system, fundraising, marketing, training, and operations. All the work was done on a volunteer basis and we will describe how we coordinated this massive effort and how this process strengthened the community.
  2. How does one go about delivering a large-scale scientific outreach and art project like Dr. Brainlove? We will talk about the balance between pre-planning, fostering creativity and being adaptable to changing constraints and unforeseen challenges.
  3. Where did the experts involved in the creation of Dr. Brainlove come from? This project relied on a network of experts and beautifully illustrates the value of distributed skills. You will learn about the interplay of requirements and expertise and how each stimulated the other.
  4. How is the design of Dr. Brainlove influenced by the demands of Burning Man and the science outreach mission? We will discuss how the increasing importance of science outreach to the team influenced the design considerations and how we tried to cater effectively to two different audiences without compromising the integrity of the project.
  5. Why?! Dr. Brainlove has taken huge amounts of emotional and physical energy to build as well as a substantial sum of money. We'll tell the story of how so many people came to care so much about the project.



Natalia Bilenko, PhD Candidate, University of California, Berkeley

Meta Information:

  • Event: Interactive
  • Format: Other
  • Track: Art and Inspiration
  • Track 2
  • Level: Beginner

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