Creating Art with Thought Alone: First BCI-Generated Art Exhibit Opens in Washington, D.C.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and Blackrock Neurotech announced today the first-ever brain-computer interface (BCI) art exhibit, to be displayed at AAAS headquarters in Washington, D.C. The BCI Exhibit will feature works created by patients with paralysis using thought-to-cursor implantable brain-computer interface technology made possible by Blackrock.
The gallery opens April 13 with a VIP Preview (by invitation) before welcoming public visitors April 14 through Nov. 15, 2023. Admission to the exhibit is free.
Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) are a rapidly advancing neurotechnology that restores function for individuals with paralysis and neurological disorders. Using a microchip implanted in the brain, BCIs connect a person’s neural signals with a computer, empowering them to control the device with only their thoughts. Though these devices are often considered science fiction, Blackrock’s BCI technology has been studied in patients with paralysis since 2004, and the company anticipates its first BCI product for home use to be released in 2024.
The exhibit will feature digital art creations by several “BCI Pioneers,” patients with paralysis who have received a Blackrock implant. Their works were created using software platforms like Photoshop and MS Paint. In addition to the artwork of the Pioneers, the exhibit includes pieces by Ph.D. neuroscientist Greg Dunn and an educational component that will walk visitors through the rich history of neurotechnology, introducing them to extraordinary lab research with displays of current and future brain implants, including the devices used by the artists.
“There’s a common misperception that all BCI technology is rudimentary or in its earliest stages, but as this exhibit demonstrates, BCI Pioneers have used Blackrock technology to execute incredibly sophisticated tasks, like operation of complex programs, for years,” said Marcus Gerhardt, co-founder and CEO of Blackrock.
“The works on display in the BCI Exhibit represent a groundbreaking intersection of science and art,” said Olga Francois, Chair of the AAAS Arts Program and Committee. “We’ve seen an explosion of conversation in recent months about the impact that technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning will have on human creativity, and The BCI Exhibit highlights a fascinating facet of this discussion.”
Among the exhibit’s featured artists is Nathan Copeland, who enrolled in a research study after a car accident left him paralyzed from the chest down. Since receiving a BCI implant in 2014, Copeland has surpassed countless milestones, most recently becoming the world’s longest-implanted BCI Pioneer at more than eight years. He, alongside the other artists, is a champion for demonstrating the capabilities of BCI technology to change the lives of patients with paralysis.
“I’ve always hoped that, through my participation in the study, I would be able to help other people with paralysis have a better life, or an easier time dealing with their situation without having to endure a period of despair,” said Copeland. “I want them to be told, ‘Your life isn’t over. There’s a technology that can help you do the things you think you can’t, just in a different way.’ It’s not just art. BCI is paving the way for hope and possibility.”
“If Nathan can create art with a BCI, imagine the ease with which he will be able to control a computer to send emails, work, and complete day-to-day tasks,” said Gerhardt. “Through demonstrations like the BCI Exhibit at AAAS, we hope to educate the public about the life-changing impact that BCI will have on patients with paralysis, their caregivers, and their communities.”
To plan your visit to the BCI Exhibit at AAAS, please visit www.aaas.org/events/brain-computer-interface-exhibit.
Attend the Gallery
9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
1200 New York Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20005
Access to the gallery is through the main entrance on New York Avenue.
Meet the Artists
A BCI enthusiast and self-described cyborg, Nathan has been implanted with a BCI longer than any person in history. He has participated in groundbreaking BCI research, including studies that involve both the motor and sensory cortexes. Within BCI research, Nathan holds a number of firsts: He was the first individual to use a portable, at-home BCI system independently, the first to experience tactile sensations through his BCI; and the first to create NFT art with his BCI.
As a teenager, James overcame a severe gunshot wound while volunteering with the Guardian Angels. The near-death experience ignited his faith and passion for helping others, leading him to become a registered nurse, respiratory therapist, and volunteer at hospitals around the world. Since he began participating in BCI research, James has become proficient at controlling digital devices with his BCI, including Photoshop, car simulators, and video games.
At age 52, Jan Scheuermann volunteered to undergo brain surgery to place two electrode arrays on her brain. With these electrodes, she learned to control a robotic arm named Hector with her mind. She was able to train Hector to pick up and move objects and even feed herself chocolate. Photo courtesy of UMPC
Dr. Greg Dunn
Dr. Dunn began painting brain and neuroscience art in grad school at the University of Pennsylvania. After years of experimentation with gold leaf, he invented a hyper-detailed process called reflective micro etching with his collaborator Dr. Brian Edwards. This style of art uses reflected light to create animated scenes on a seemingly flat piece of art on the wall.
Get involved with the artists through the BCI Pioneer Coalition.
The Coalition is a digital forum led by the world’s first implantable BCI research participants. The group works to establish a set of ethics, guidelines, and best practices for future patients, clinicians, and commercial entities engaging with BCI research studies.
About Blackrock Neurotech
Blackrock Neurotech is dedicated to the clinical translation of brain-computer interface (BCI) technology. Blackrock, founded in 2008, is the world’s leading platform company for BCI technology and the development of implantable solutions that improve human lives. Blackrock’s precision electrode technology is at the core of many worldwide innovations in BCI, enabling dozens of early users (known as “BCI Pioneers”) to SeeAgain, HearAgain, MoveAgain and more. For more information, visit www.blackrockneurotech.com.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science, as well as Science Translational Medicine; Science Signaling; a digital, open-access journal, Science Advances; Science Immunology; and Science Robotics. AAAS was founded in 1848 and includes more than 250 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. The nonprofit AAAS is open to all and fulfills its mission to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, public engagement, and more. For additional information about AAAS, visit www.aaas.org.