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Dance with synapses reveals the possibilities of the brain

As you read this, millions of connections are being made at the synapses between the nerve cells in your brain. Developed by RISE, the installation "Dance with Synapses" offers a playful, interactive demonstration of how this occurs.

The seeds of the project were sown in 2014, when the Swedish National Museum of Science and Technology was looking for a thought-provoking and creative installation for its new MegaMind science centre. When the assignment landed on the desk at RISE, it was clear that a similar installation should be built at Visualization Centre C.

Installation at museum

At the National Museum of Science and Technology, the installation was intended to be located in the foyer to act as a meeting place for school classes or other groups.

“We developed and presented a number of concepts and the management group settled on one that was both visual and interactive. It projects a representation of creativity in the brain onto the floor, showing ideas springing up through synapses,” explains Madeleine Kusoffsky, project manager at RISE.

The technology comprises a wall of LEDs that extend the floor projections up onto a u-shaped wall. A Microsoft Kinect game controller developed for the Xbox One is also used together with a depth camera and a standard camera to register the shapes of people moving around the floor.

Makes visitor control nerve fibres

The installation, which has been operational since autumn 2015, offers visitors the opportunity to capture, control and connect synapses by walking or dancing across the illuminated floor.

“People are assigned nerve fibres that they can control and connect through body movements. Up to six people can collaborate to connect neve fibres. In order to make a connection, you require three green axons and three pink dendrites on the floor,” explains Madeleine Kusoffsky.

The players are aurally rewarded with pleasant sounds as the number of connections increases.

“What we demonstrate artistically, visually and aurally is the plasticity of the brain and that it can actually be trained to be more creative. And that collaboration and playfulness are useful tools for creating innovation,” concludes Madeleine Kusoffsky.