The art of lucid dreaming is one that many of us would like to perfect, allowing us to remain conscious while dreaming and to take active control of their content. This ability enables the dreamer to visualise a limitless number of scenarios, all played out in vivid detail yet totally under their control.
A desirable skill for those who awake after an amazing dream, frustrated that they cannot recapture its intensity or detailed events. Even lucid dreamers must eventually forget their dream as they are replaced by others, the same as with real life experiences. But what if we could record our dreams to watch again, like an interactive virtual reality TV show?
Scientists have now developed cinematic technology that can enable viewers to watch a film that is a visual representation of their subconscious mind, allowing them to watch and record their dreams in technicolor. The system uses a biosensor headset controls moving screen images according to changes in an individual’s brain activity. The device was developed by Manchester-based animator Richard Ramchurn, and originally allowed users to manipulate a digital art installation.
"The goal of the project is for people to be able to physically see and hear their dreams," explained Mr. Ramchurn. "Narratives and layers can be built that are all governed by the user’s concentration and meditation levels. Edit points can be created by monitoring the users blinking.
"The audience can project their feelings onto the film that they are seeing, the film they watch will have a series of overlapping structures that they can interact with and/or disregard.
"We tested the device at Manchester University last year and a lot of people who used it compared the experience to lucid dreaming."
The new technique utilises the MindWave Mobile headset which was developed by tech company NeuroSky, and costs £100 ($159).
"The rhythms of the editing, how the movie jumps from scene to scene, depends on the mind state of the person watching it," said Mr. Ramchurn. "Much like a dream you can’t really control what happens on screen.
"Your brain chooses the sounds and sights you experience but you can’t really direct them – you just have to go with it."
Scientists have been experimenting with the idea of recording dreams for years: in 2010, US researcher Dr. Moran Cerf. Published research in the journal Nature describing the development of similar technology that was capable of recording higher-level brain activity.
"We would like to read people’s dreams," said Dr. Cerf back then, and it looks like this dream has moved one step closer to becoming a viable reality.
Dr Cerf’s study was focussed on developing a system that would enable psychologists to corroborate people’s recollections of their dream with an electronic visualisation of their brain activity.
The two projects are unrelated, however, and the inspiration for the latest technology apparently came from Walter Murch’s book In The Blink Of An Eye, which compares dreams to films: "Films and dreams are very similar," said Mr. Ramchurn. "The problem is it’s easy to remember a film because you’re conscious while it’s playing, but it can be hard to recall a dream once you’re awake.
"The headset is the perfect device for exploring dreams, because it brings your subconscious to the forefront, placing it on a screen for you to experience consciously."
Mr Ramchurn predicts that scientific advances may make detailed dream recording possible in the near future.
"There is research which suggests we may be able to fully record a dream within the next 10 to 15 years," he said.