EEG AR: Things We Have Lost

By John Craig Freeman

EEG AR: Things We Have Lost allows participants to conjure up virtual objects by simply imagining them into existence using brainwave sensor technology. A database of objects based on the broad theme of “Things We Have Lost,” which includes things such as pensions, empires and dodo birds, has been generated by asking the people of Liverpool what they have lost.

The project consists of two parts, an experimental exhibition/performance and a city-wide public art installation.

During the experimental phase, test subjects are outfitted with EEG-reading brainwave sensors and ask to think deeply about what he or she has lost. Once the software detects a measurable and consistent pattern, it issues a database call to instantiate a virtual object selected randomly from the database. The virtual object then appears in front of the participant using augmented reality technology and is viewable on any iPhone or Android device.

Please visit our Facebook Page to provide your answer to the question, “What have you lost?” A virtual object will be created based on your answer and entered into the database.

In 2012, people were selected at random in the streets of Liverpool and simply asked, “What have you lost?” The location was recorded and a series of virtual lost objects were created based on the responses given. The objects were then placed back in the exact GPS coordinates where the encounter took, creating a citywide network of lost things, viewable on any mobile device.

Video by Carl Davies and Mike Donaghy.


  • To view the work on location in Liverpool, using any late model iPad, iPhone or Android, download the free Layar Augmented Reality Browser ( and scan this code
  • .


Screenshots from field testing on location, 15-25 June, 2012

This project is being developed in collaboration with ManifestAR, an international artists’ collective working with emergent forms of augmented reality as interventionist public art.

The group was recently awarded the ARtSENSE Commission at FACT, in Liverpool.

FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) has been leading the UK video, film and new media arts scene for 20 years with groundbreaking exhibitions, education and research projects. The organization aims to pioneer new forms of artistic and social interaction with individuals and communities.

ARtSENSE is a European research project in collaboration with 2 other cultural organizations and 5 technical and research organizations to develop wearable technology that aims to improve and augment the gallery and museum visitor experience. The technology will be discreetly embedded into eye glasses, with information beamed directly onto the retina of the wearer. The planned research will look at monitoring the physiological activity of the user, included eye-tracking, heart rate and skin conductivity to ascertain the “state” of the user (bored, excited, interested) and to then adapt the information sent to the user (textual, audio, video) accordingly.

This commission was awarded in order to create significant new artworks that align with one of its current research interests looking at augmented visitor experience.

Our project will explore linking augmented virtual objects with audience response translated through compact wearable bio, audio, eye and brainwave sensing devices. We will create individual and collective works based on the theme; I think, I see, I speak, I feel- therefore it is. Our research will involve a year-long collaboration between ManifestAR artists, FACT and the ARtSENSE Consortium. The project will culminate in an exhibition at FACT in 2013. ManifestAR will also explore and create work in the city of Liverpool, beyond the galleries at FACT.

EEG AR: Things We Have Lost, Experimental Phase

During scheduled lab/clinical hours, we will invite the public to participate by appointment or on a first-come-first-serve, walk-in basis. During the times that the *doctors/scientist/artists are not able to be present physically at the clinic, we will conduct trials remotely using telecommunication and monitoring technologies.

As audience members enter the EEG AR: lab/clinic, they will be greeted by one of the artists or an assistant, who will screen them at the reception desk to pre-qualify them as test subjects. While we prepare the exam room for the trial, subjects who meet the criteria will wait in the waiting room, which resembles a tea lounge or doctor’s office, where they can enjoy video documentation of past trial results on a flat screen television. Individual test subjects will be invited back to the exam area and asked to take a seat in a reclining exam chair, which is situated in front of a large live feed projection. We will then outfit the test subject with a brainwave sensor device and monitor their EEG levels.


NeuroSky MindWave brainwave sensor.

The test subject will be asked to relax and to think deeply about what he or she has lost. We will begin by measuring the Attention and Meditation values represented by the medium and dark grey bars to the left of the graph below.

Streaming brainwave data.

If those values meet or exceed a predetermined high value, an SQL statement will be generated which will query the database of lost things and randomly select one to instantiate in the physical location, where anyone can view it using a smart phone. The experience can take up to thirty minutes per test subject to complete and must run its course.

Once we get this functionality working we intend to explore pairing the brainwave sensor to the test subjects smart phone, so that the experiment can be move out of the lab environment and into the streets of Liverpool.


1 Response to EEG AR: Things We Have Lost

  1. Craig & Scott – wow, you guys are so ambitious!

    The vox pop piece is quite sublime in itself. And then mapping that data to the city… and then your lab space at the gallery…

    So you have the vox pop loss mapped city coming to the gallery and the brain mapped loss reaching out to the city…

    So much mapping & projecting & augmenting! 🙂

    This is quite an opus! Looking forward to further updates!

    Best wishes!

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