About this project
"Man must explore,"
said Apollo 15 Commander Dave Scott as he stood on the Moon’s surface.
Humans are inherently curious. We have journeyed into space, and have traveled to the bottom of our deepest oceans. But no one has ever explained why man or woman “must explore.” What is it that sparks our curiosity? Are we hard-wired for exploration? Somewhere in the brain’s complex architecture lie the answers.
The NEURODOME project is a planetarium show that delves into these questions. Combining planetarium production technology with high-resolution brain imaging techniques, we will create dome-format animations that examine what it is about the brain that drives us to journey into the unknown. Seamlessly interspersed with space scenes, the NEURODOME planetarium show will zoom through the brain in the context of cutting edge astronomical research. This project will present our most current portraits of neurons, networks, and regions of the brain responsible for exploratory behavior.
We have already invested years of effort as well as our own funds to develop visualization techniques for both the brain and space. In this Kickstarter campaign, we are now seeking funds to create a visualization platform (a variant of Uniview) that merges the imagery of the brain and space. We are raising $25,000 in order to generate a five-minute animated planetarium sequence, complete with voiceover and score.
Our ultimate goal, however, is to produce a set of two 10-minute animations in dome format. Our first animation will follow light from a distant star as it travels to Earth and through the brain’s visual pathway. The second animation will visit some of man’s latest conquests in space, as well as brain regions involved in exploratory behavior.
In addition, we will produce flat-screen versions of all resulting animations that can be viewed anywhere.
Real images, real scientists
The NEURODOME project was created by an interdisciplinary team of scientists, digital effects artists, and planetarium production specialists who are harnessing revolutionary brain-imaging techniques to provide a glimpse into the inner workings of the mind. Producing and visualizing new scientific data is what we do. We'll show you real images, not simulations, straight from the scientists themselves.
Using astrovisualization tools to explore the brain
To achieve our aesthetic, we have partnered with the Stockholm-based software company SCISS AB, which developed Uniview, the premier software environment for producing dome-format films. Uniview is a versatile, real-time data visualization program that is designed to present scientific data from fields that include astronomy, geosciences, and climatology. Uniview was co-developed with team member Carter Emmart. The short animation, The Known Universe, directed by Carter, was created exclusively using Uniview.
Flying through neurons
Complementing our partnership with SCISS, we have also joined forces with Bitplane Scientific Software. Bitplane, part of the Andor Technology Group, is the developer of Imaris, currently the premier visualization platform for biological data. Bitplane brings to our project over two decades of scientific software development. Their team of scientists comprises experts in key technologies such as 3D microscopy, image restoration, visualization and analysis. With their help, we're bringing data directly to the public using tools designed by and for scientists.
Neuroscience is a notoriously difficult subject to teach. Yet both children and adults are interested in how their own brain works. Through our animations we hope to foster a greater appreciation for cutting-edge neuroscience research. To maximize the educational impact, we have partnered with Kelley Remole of the Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute and established a partnership with The Rockefeller University’s Science Outreach program to broadly incorporate our content into educational events and programs.
Tour through your brain!
In collaboration with Weill Cornell Medical College's Neuroradiology department, we are offering two top donors a unique opportunity: we will organize an fMRI scan, and our final animations will tour through 3D images of your brain. If you desire, your actual brain activity - visuals of how your brain processes sensory information - will also be featured. For more information, see the reward's brochure or contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org)!
Name a star - be a part of a connectome visualization!
The connectome is a map of the functional connectivity of the brain. To acknowledge donors, we are developing visualizations that feature donors' names at each point of connection. In other words, your name will directly be linked with real connectome data. The visuals, resembling stars and constellations in the sky, will be available on our website. An animated tour through this network will serve as part of the credits at the end of one of our planetarium animations.
Who we are
NEURODOME is created by an elite league of scientists, animators, film specialists, and educators. Think of the X-Men, minus the adamantium bone claws. See the "see full bio" link at the top of the page for more detail.
NEURODOME is a non-profit project
Our project is non-profit and fiscally sponsored by Unique Projects, Inc., a not-for-profit fiscal sponsorship program designed to connect performing artists to the funding resources needed to make and show work. This means that your contributions are tax-deductable (you will be issued a tax receipt for contributions of at least $50).
About the Kickstarter pitch video:
The Intro trailer was created by Marjoe Aguiling.
The pitch video was produced, shot and edited by Titi Yu.
Special thanks to:
Mara Greenberg (Pentacle)
Moby, for pitch video music.
Risks and challenges
This project brings experts together. Each of us has over a decade of experience working in our respective fields - neuroscience, astronomy, animation, programming, and film. The space show genre specializes in interfacing scientists with entertainment, so the production members of our team are ready to guide. For our distribution, we may initially have limited access to dome-format venues; this may delay some rewards related to premiere events.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Though we’ve gotten a lot of encouragement, respect, and, yes, praise for the project, when it comes to fundraising we’re still getting some “I don’t get it.”
The NEURODOME project, a fiscally-sponsored nonprofit project, was founded to create a concrete deliverable – animations that fly through space and the brain. We want these animations to:
2. Show the public what real images from the brain look like.
3. Educate the public not only about neuroscience, but about what imaging technology can do. After all, imaging modalities are the “spaceships” of the inner frontier.
That said, thanks to the diversity of team members’ backgrounds, we are exploiting the occasion to foster three major spin-off goals:
(1) Bring the public data directly from scientists, minimally post-processed. We want to encourage scientists to share and showcase awesome 3D data from the brain that typically only scientists get to see.
(2) Engineer ways to use our 3D brain visualizations in more traditional educational settings – workshops, classroom, etc. - possibly through live “virtual tours.” Live brain dissections actually show people what the stuff in our heads looks like, but unless you’re a neuroscientist or neurologist, it’s really hard to know what you’re looking at. This is an opportunity to tour the brain from the inside, highlighting cells and structures that would otherwise just look like mush.
(3) Share with others techniques and tricks for porting unconventional / device-specific data types into more standard animation (e.g. Maya, Blender) or analysis (e.g. Matlab) environments…as well as tricks for making 3D neuro data look awesome. Ultimately through open-access publications.
$25K will buy us the creation of the visualization tools and a 5 minute proof of principle. Though the animation sounds short, this represents the biggest hurdle: putting our data up in a dome. With voiceover and music to boot. With further funds – especially if we exceed our fundraising goal – our ultimate goal is two 10-minute animations that would be screened back-to-back. If we do not exceed our goal significantly, then when we’ve completed our 5 minute animation, we will fundraise further at that point, though not necessarily via Kickstarter (grants, both foundation and public).
It’s funny – you say $25K to a scientist and they say “$25K for just that??” while a film person says “Are you crazy? You think you can do all that for $25K?? Besides requiring hardware and software, this project employs professional animators, editors, and software developers. For this project, they’re working below market value but not for free.
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