A few weeks ago, I got invited to go to an artist talk of a friend from college. The description of her project immediately caught my attention, where the summary mentioned using technology combined with meditation to create art. Amazing right?
What if it was feasible to draw without the use of your hands?
Cynthia O’neill, really embodies what passion for a project is. Through her lecture at Open Works Baltimore, she told us that our minds have the power to change our physical world, and she was able to prove that with her current obsession- Electroencephalography and meditation.
Cynthia has no background in tech. She brought up how often she was told that what she wanted to do could not be done. Then she tried the next person. And then the next. Finally, she was able to find someone that was willing to help her. She went from knowing no code to coding in C++ in months!
After listening to her speak about her journey, her passion, and her goals, I was so inspired to add even more of that same energy into my own work and how I look at the world. You can do so much once you decide to do something.
I asked Cynthia a few questions to better explain how truly amazing this project is. There is even a way for you to participate to help her further her research and discovery!
Visualizing Consciousness: Drawing Machine by Cynthia O’Neill
What would you say was the moment that inspired you to do this project?
I have always used art as a method of healing, communicating, and narrating personal journeys. Illness and art have been constants in my life; survival and medical conditions often force me to consider anatomy when investigating how humans exist within the world. In may of 2017 I was diagnosed with a small tumor pushing on my pituitary, I’ve named her Penelope. This diagnosis of Penelope was preceded by a multitude of problematic symptoms and an overwhelming call for a need for self-love.
While I have developed many, the best method by far was learning to slow down, settle, and be with myself, be with my body. This is best taught to me through the practice of meditation. I started my exploration of EEG (Electroencephalography) when I was really diving into the effects of meditation. The further I got into the world of meditative practices the more I wanted to know. I actually found out that people were using EEG to register as games online to record their meditation sessions to see who could be more “relaxed”. This intrigued me as I figured there is clearly something to be monitored here. Eventually, I would come to use this technology to monitor my own brain activity during my meditations and I would notice some major changes in my frontal lobe as the meditations would go on.
I started to realize how much control I truly had over my emotions. When I noticed control over my emotions I noticed the control emotions had on some of the physical symptoms. This became motivation to learn how to align intent and start meeting things with love instead of fear. Suddenly I had this magical superpower of control over my life and I learned how to become happy and whole again while I went on this journey with Penelope. I thought… well if I can do this what else can my brain do?
The Process by Cynthia O’Neill
What is your end goal with this project?
I have yet to see an end.
I like to say I’ve sort of jumped into a giant body of water and the ripples are endless.
I see prosthetics or creating new platforms and abilities for those who need or want them.
I see it as a meditation tool.
Biofeedback has been proven to be a huge help in proving that meditation works, and I think this is a tool to show people that you really can slow down your thoughts. The only way you can get the machine to work is to slow down, to set your intent and be exactly where you are. Otherwise, the EEG will not read correctly. I see it as inspiration.
I am not a neuroscientist, engineer, programmer, scientist, or mathematician.
I was told over and over again there was no way I could do this and a project like this was impossible. Yet here we are talking about it.
I hope people take this, I hope they break it and make it something new, something better or something completely different. I know I’m not the only one who sees an outlandish dream or idea.
How can someone help?
Meet with me, please! Sign up to operate my machine! (soon to be machines have to be 18+ of age)
Support local artists, learn as much as you can. Explore! Support building the bridge between the arts and sciences, we need to close the gap for more wonderful projects!
Offer up your knowledge, I would have never of been able to accomplish what I did if it wasn’t for people sharing their knowledge with me. Please when you work, support open source, keep your codes, tips and tricks open, in anything you do, That goes beyond coding. If you figured out a cool casting trick with rubber molds share it, if you know something awesome in material exploit it. You’re definitely not the only one but who knows, but what amazing thing you will inspire if you get the information out instead of keeping it a secret. On the flip side, if you are inspired give credit where credit is due!
Progress is exciting and it really only happens quickly when we all work together!
Watch the drawing machine in action:
The subject is giving various facial signals to tell the drawing machine to move. Depending on the subject, they may not need facial cues at all, but just need to visualize a force moving the object.
So how do you get involved? Get in touch:
Her website: awalkoflifestudios.carbonmade.com
Watch a video of her drawing machine in action: https://awalkoflifestudios.carbonmade.com/projects/6738925
Art and passion like Cynthia’s has always been so inspiring. Keep the chain going, share if you can’t become involved directly. Support your own community of artists and help in whatever way you can!