Programmable Synthetic Hallucinations: Towards a boundless mixed reality


Warner Brothers

Warner Brothers

Dan Novy dissertation defense

Programmable Synthetic Hallucinations describe the utilization of the bio-physiological mechanics of hallucination generated in the human brain to display virtual information directly in the visual field. 

Science fiction films, television shows, and video games have trained audiences to think of holograms as luminous volumetric images that float registered in the viewer's 3D space and require no special glasses or optics to see or interact with them. The ability of users to interact with a floating aerial lightfield without the use of face-worn binocular optics is a difficult challenge and one in which a hallucinatory experience offers a solution. While we do not have the ability to activate individual neurons to recreate an neuro-electrical pattern indiscernible from the perception of reality, a solution involving the creation of phosphenes within the visual field via the magnetic stimulation of neurons in the visual cortex may be a viable first step. 

By electrically stimulating the cells in the hypercolumns of V1, one can induce the perception of a pixel of light within the visual field of a user. These magnetophosphenes are visual perceptions described as luminous shapes, which can be created by time- varying magnetic fields. These change the membrane potential and trigger an action potential directly in neurons of the visual cortex. As of now, commercial transcranial magnetic stimulators can only be focused to an area approaching one square centimeter. Novel coil designs should be able to overcome this limitation and will be a central focus of the proposed research. 

Committee members: 

V. Michael Bove, Jr., PhD: Principal Research Scientist, MIT Media Lab
Thesis Supervisor

Ed Boyden, PhD: Associate Professor, Media Lab and McGovern Institute, Departments of Biological Engineering and Brain and Cognitive Sciences; Co-Director, MIT Center for Neurobiological Engineering, MIT

Joe Paradiso, PhD: Alexander W. Dreyfoos (1954) Professor in Media Arts and Sciences,  MIT

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