Acclair is an independent research consultancy exploring the augmentation of everyday life through the design and implementation of Neurocapital services.

We combine knowledge and expertise from the cognitive neurosciences, advanced personal technologies, and interaction design to suggest potentialities for neuro-based services. Our goals include developing neuro-based projects that illustrate our concept of Neurocapital and serve as a forum and platform for critical engagement with rapidly advancing neuro-technology. The underlying objective of Acclair is to enable people to take advantage of their Neurocapital using a Brain Computer Interface (BCI).

Neurocapital is the unique neuro-currency that each person owns intrinsically by living in the world. Acclair believes that this biometric currency will become increasingly valuable in the relationship among and between individuals and institutional entities.

Origins

Acclair was started in 2004 as a purely conceptual project exploring the ideas of “brain fingerprinting” in the airport security context. Coming out of the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, Luther Thie and Eyal Fried were influenced by Tony Dunne & Fiona Raby’s process & methodology of critical design or “Design for Debate.” They used this methodology to create an interactive experience whereby the user participates in an “experience prototype” where the interaction is tested with props and visual displays that simulate real technological products and systems in order to test the idea.

Acclair at Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin, Italy, 2004

As a membership requirement, records of all personal data needed to be surrendered to Acclair, including credit, health, travel, etc. Surprisingly, few users had qualms with this aspect, nor with Acclair’s biometrics process, “dataveillance” or the implications of a failed test. Perhaps because the project never did actually collect any of this data; in any case the rewards seemed to outweigh the problems. Although there were a number of people who were skeptical of the Acclair approach, there seemed to be an inherent trust of the system, that the system was actually scanning the brain, analyzing the data and evaluating the user. In a way, these first prototypes confirmed their suspicions that people give away their personal data much too freely.

Next Steps

In 2009, with an invitation to participate in the Take On Me show at the Vanabbe Museum in The Netherlands, Acclair changed tactics and began using the Neurosky MindSet in their Art Valuation Service. Instead of simulating an airport security clearance system, we decided to use the museum exhibition context and create a “neuro-aware” environment there.

Using real brain-scanning equipment, we created the first prototype that scans the brain while looking at an artwork, records the data, visualizes the data in real-time and uses the Neurosky eSense algorithm to analyze for Meditation and Attention to create a simple evaluation.

The response from the audience was very positive and led to Acclair’s involvement in STRP Art and Technology Festival in Eindhoven, The Netherlands November 18-28, 2010. We are developing the next iteration of the Art Valuation Service where 10 users are able to simultaneously explore the exhibition using the Neurosky MindSets. The plan is to set up the infrastructure for this system, record data, provide basic analysis and rewards for user participation. As the project develops, the goal is to develop a unique valuation algorithm that will find patterns in the data, leading to better understanding the brain’s reactions in real-time situations.

The Acclair Art Valuation Service is in phase 2 Beta. We are using the exhibition format as an experimental playground for research & development in a neuro-aware environment where we are gathering and analyzing EEG/EMG brain data while users view artwork “stimuli.”

In implementing this project during the STRP festival, Acclair’s approach can be divided into five layers:

  1. Provide an innovative and communicative experience for the STRP visitors, including a meaningful rewards system.
  2. Based on the limited deployment of the AVS (Art Valuation Service) at the Van Abbemuseum in October 2009, to make a significant advancement and explore the relationship between cognitive brain events and complex artworks while roaming in an “everyday manner”.
  3. Collect a meaningful dataset for future empirical analysis, scientific scrutiny and future projects.
  4. Experiment with the use of multiple mobile consumer Brain-Computer Interfaces in an uncontrolled space.
  5. Develop a dedicated graphic language for the data visualization and social situations that will develop.

We consider the participation in STRP to be the beginning of a series of projects that further engage with Brain Computer Interfaces and enable the public a first- hand view into the possibilities and problematics of neuro-based architectures venturing into internet-enabled and market-driven environments. We see the recent wave of affordable brain computer interface systems as the beginning of direct brain control of computerized systems.

Our goal is to serve as a standard model and reference center in the newly emerging field of neuro-metrics and neuro-aware environments. We create a platform for research and discussion surrounding opportunities combining the brain with information systems and everyday experience.

The Acclair Art Valuation Service, powered by its Neurocapital™ system, offers a more democratic means of placing value on art. By observing viewers’ responses to individual artworks, Acclair can determine value based on scientific methodologies drawn from cognitive science. Unlike traditional cognitive research, which has generally focused on the perceptual and affective effects of art, Acclair offers a new way to calibrate the market valuation of artworks based on quantifiable data gleaned from electroencephalographic measurement and analysis. The Acclair Art Valuation Service addresses the imperative to respond to social and cultural realities through art by assessing the financial value of art objects from the point of view of cognitive science.

The Acclair Art Valuation Service presents the public with a clear, informative way to understand the empirical value of an artwork. Acclair clients such as curators, collectors and auction houses can utilize the service to obtain hard data in support of their acquisition choices; to monitor the public’s responses to art objects on display; and to predict future trends. The unbiased readings Acclair offers can be used to tailor displays to specific audiences, and to conduct valuable market research, thereby positioning institutions more favorably in the eyes of the communities they serve. Over time, Acclair findings could lead to a broader understanding of art’s ability to affect individual perception, as well as its larger social role.