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Dreaming Up Colors with Brainwave Scans


A darkened room with a man standing in front of a screen with bright swirls of color.

An EEG band was placed across my forehead, and for 30 seconds, it measured my brain waves. Then it translated them into undulating colors on a large screen in front of me. My theta, beta, alpha, and gamma activity rippled like the iridescence on a soap bubble. At the end, they blended into a dawn-tinged blue color chip. After all, the event was hosted by a paint manufacturer.

As we waited in line and watched the scans of the people in front of us develop, a signage designer said, "It's like a mood ring." An architect who had transitioned from boutique resort properties to chain hotels worried her scan would show a black screen. Some closed their eyes during the scan. Others seemed intent on making the colors do something.

It is a well-established phenomenon that color influences us. Blues are calming. Reds make us hungry. But what if, instead of color being an input, it was an output? That was the conceit of the installation: “Color influences creativity. It lives and breathes inside us. Intertwined with our thoughts, inspirations, and designs.”

It all made me think about wellness and the interface between humans and the built environment. Already, the makers of electronic paper displays have developed architectural applications for the technology. It is just one small hop of software to project my internal brain state onto the wall. Or a more private display to provide bio-feedback on my mental state, perhaps as part of a relaxation pod.

As Internet of Things technology proliferates, software iterates, and interest in wellness in the workplace grows, the possibilities for playful and perhaps useful applications in the built environment will only expand.

This Quick Read was submitted by Naomi Millán, senior editor, Building Operating Management. 

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