From the outside, the Experience Helmet, made by Lithuanian sound artist Aiste Noreikaite, looks like any old white motorcycle helmet. But put it on, and you become suddenly immersed in your own private sound installation. High and low tones combine to form an enveloping electronic beat—all of which is composed by your own brainwaves.
Originally created as a project for Noreikaite's sound and design class at University of the Arts in London, the helmet is built around a NeuroSky headset, an EEG device that senses the activity of neurons in the brain and indicates whether a person's thoughts are either meditative or attentive. Noreikaite used the software that accompanies the device to measure the exact level of "meditativeness" or "attentiveness" on a dial that went from 0 to 100. She assigned each number on the dial a frequency, so that a higher sound indicates a more calm and relaxed state and a faster, more rhythmical sound indicates more activity and awareness.
"The neurons in the brain communicate through electricity, so I thought that electronic tones would be perfect for that," says Noreikaite. "I just wanted to make it as simple as possible. You don’t want to overload the music, if you do it looses it’s power."
To that end, inside the Experience Helmet your thoughts become modern minimal electronic music, similar to that of the avant-garde artist and composer La Monte Young. The more active your thinking, the more frenetic the beat. And as two tones of slightly different frequency enter each ear, the brain produces what Noreikaite calls a "binaural beat": a frequency that vibrates at 10Hz inside the brain, which is equivalent to the Alpha brainwaves that occur in states of light meditation.
Though it hasn't been proven that the helmet produces it, the Alpha frequency is the thing that Noreikaite is eager to explore further. If harnessed, it could help people with anxiety to relax, or even function almost like an antidepressant. "I would like to help people with mental issues and see how this whole brainwave thing—the binaural beats—can make a person feel better," says Noreikaite. "I really like the idea that it's not direct music. It’s something that is being created by brain. It's another area of the unknown, what our brains can do."
The Experience Helmet only exists in prototype.