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‘Many Worlds’ Changes Interactive Cinema By Reading Audiences’ Emotional and Physical Responses

'Many Worlds' Changes Interactive Cinema By Reading Audiences' Emotional and Physical Responses

Imagine a film that changes according to your emotional arousal without you consciously realizing it. Plymouth University Music Research Fellow Alexis Kirke’s latest project “Many Worlds” is a 15 minute short that innovates the realm of interactive cinema like never before.

The concept of audience interaction, where in the past viewers have been the power to decide on the outcome of a film through voting or using a remote control, is nothing revolutionary. The first interactive movie dates back to 1967 with “Kinoautomat” and other initiatives notable experiments include Bob Bejan’s 1992 “I’m Your Man” and TIFF’s “Late Fragment” in 2007. However, Kirke’s experimental short takes the decision making out of the audience’s hands, and puts it into their minds, literally.

According to BBC News, “Many Worlds” selects four volunteers from the audience, attaches senors to various parts of their bodies, and uses bio-signals to detect their emotions and states of mind. One volunteer’s heart-rate is monitored, another’s level of perspiration is observed, a third person’s brain waves are monitored, and the last volunteer’s muscle tension is measured. Each of these arousal sensors is analyzed by software algorithms to depict how the movie will move from one scene to the next and which of the film’s four alternate endings will play. The film’s soundtrack also changes according to  the volunteers’ responses, allowing for mood and psychological control that can create fear when the volunteer reads bored or restless.

Gareth Mitchell of BBC World Service took part in the experiment with the muscle sensor attached to his arm. When the software read that Mitchell was feeling tense, the film changed to a more relaxed sequence and when he was bored the scenario became more dramatic and violent.

BBC tech writer Bill Thompson said of the film,” This is clearly an experiment. The question is will you, the viewer ‘drop out’ of the film narrative because it’s detecting you; and will the story telling be seamless enough for it to feel more like you’re playing a game which takes you in a direction you sort of want to go in?”

On the film’s website Kirke explains how his innovations to interactive cinema with “Many Worlds” will help prevent audience boredom and film studios’ repetitive audience test screenings. “It would be great if the film plot or character could change if we were finding them boring,” Kirke said. “The difficulty is, we’d want it to change without us doing anything! So somehow a movie has to read our mind while it’s being shown – that’s exactly what ‘Many Worlds’ does.”

The film is premiering at the Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival on February 23.

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