EEG Headset With Flying Harness Lets Users ‘Fly’ by Controlling Their Thoughts

A team of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute students has created a system that pairs an EEG headset with a 3-D theatrical flying harness, allowing users to “fly” by controlling their thoughts.

The “Infinity Simulator” will make its debut with an art installation in which participants rise into the air — and trigger light, sound, and video effects — by calming their thoughts.

Creative director and Rensselaer MFA candidate Yehuda Duenyas describes the “Infinity Simulator” as a platform similar to a gaming console — like the Wii or the Kinect — writ large.

“Instead of you sitting and controlling gaming content, it’s a whole system that can control live elements — so you can control 3-D rigging, sound, lights, and video,” said Duenyas, who works under the moniker “xxxy.” “It’s a system for creating hybrids of theater, installation, game, and ride.”

Duenyas created the “Infinity Simulator” with a team of collaborators, including Michael Todd, a Rensselaer 2010 graduate in computer science. Duenyas will exhibit the new system in the art installation “The Ascent” on May 12 at Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC).

Ten computer programs running simultaneously link the commercially available EEG headset to the computer-controlled 3-D flying harness and various theater systems, said Todd.

Within the theater, the rigging — including the harness — is controlled by a Stage Tech NOMAD console; lights are controlled by an ION console running MIDI show control; sound through MAX/MSP; and video through Isadora and Jitter. The “Infinity Simulator,” a series of three C programs written by Todd, acts as intermediary between the headset and the theater systems, connecting and conveying all input and output.

“We’ve built a software system on top of the rigging control board and now have control of it through an iPad, and since we have the iPad control, we can have anything control it,” said Duenyas. “The ‘Infinity Simulator’ is the center; everything talks to the ‘Infinity Simulator.'”

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The May 12 “The Ascent” installation is only one experience made possible by the new platform, Duenyas said.

“‘The Ascent’ embodies the maiden experience that we’ll be presenting,” Duenyas said. “But we’ve found that it’s a versatile platform to create almost any type of experience that involves rigging, video, sound, and light. The idea is that it’s reactive to the users’ body; there’s a physical interaction.”

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