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A matter of Mynd over movies

Device lets brainwaves determine film outcomes

The ability to determine the outcome of a movie with your mind has become a reality, according to U.K.-based tech company MyndPlay.

Using mind-control technology already seen in the gaming world, Myndplay uses a sleek headset that measures brainwaves through the surface of the skin and detects a movie viewer’s two core mental states — focus and relaxation. Software computes the data and determines the emotional state of the viewer before seamlessly changing the outcome of the content to a different, predefined sequence.

Take watching a horror film, for example. The more frightened a headsetted viewer becomes during a film, the scarier the ending will be. Though they can’t control each characters’ precise actions, with Mynd-Play, viewers can train their brains to better control a movie with each viewing.

Content is produced specifically for the system, with films up to 20 minutes long, although a feature-length zombie pic is in the works. Films are live-action, since, as MyndPlay CEO Tre Azam notes, “Live action is how you get the best emotional response out of someone.”

Existing films can be edited for the technology, but content created specifically for MyndPlay produces the best results. The company is experimenting with splitting viewers into two groups, with one controlling a film’s heroes, and the other its villains. Viewers would duke it out through mental focus to determine whether the good or bad guys emerge as the pic’s victors. Testing is under way on a platform that would accommodate audiences of up to 400 people.

Creating scripts for a MyndPlay production requires a slightly different discipline of writing, says Azam, since the content is nonlinear, with multiple outcomes conceived and filmed.

How do directors feel about the technology?

“They love it,” Azam says, “because it gives them a new way to see their movie and allows many people to have a different experience based on how they watch it or feel it.”

Azam also notes that the technology has the potential for a positive impact on a film’s bottom line: “You have to watch the movie again and again to see what could have otherwise happened!” — words that are music to Hollywood’s ears.

Thus far, more than 5,000 people have tested the Mynd-Play technology, which debuted at July’s Topanga Film Festival. Azam chose the fest because this year’s edition was focused on neuroscience and film, with panels addressing that topic. PC and Mac versions of MyndPlay will be launched this summer, with an iPad version to bow in September. Headset and content can be purchased for less than $100 — “We want it to be cheap so that the app generation’ can enjoy it,” says Azam.

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