Hannu Rajaniemi and Samuel Halliday

What if a book could read you?

Neurofiction is a new kind of literary experience, created with the support of New Media Scotland. Neurofiction combines:

Together, these enable stories that change themselves in response to the reader's brain activity.

Each reader, each act of reading, is unique: books speak to our individual memories, associations and experiences. Reading is a two-way process, a delicate tango between the reading brain and the text.

In neurofiction, the story’s effect on the reader’s brain – electrical activity of their neurons – is captured using an electroencephalography headset. Using an algorithm that learns what themes and elements engage each reader, our neurofiction engine turns this data into a unique path through the story. The reader can be guided to one of multiple possible endings or allowed to explore a new region of the story space.

Note that neurofiction is not interactive fiction: the reader experiences the story as linear, calm and immersive, as if reading a book. But by opening themselves to be read, neurofiction readers become subconscious collaborators in the creation of a new narrative.

Our first fully realised neurofiction piece is Snow White is Dead, recently showcased at the Edinburgh Science Festival (see this photo gallery for some readers in action). It is a modern retelling of the classic fairy tale that leaves the fate of the raven-haired princess in the hands - or the brain - of the reader. Is the apple green or red? Is Snow White alive or dead?

green and red apple

We have open-sourced the software behind neurofiction to encourage innovation. Our neurofiction engine plugs in to emokit, and has a Scala story module that will eventually make it easy for neurofiction developers and authors to tell their stories.

Neurofiction is more than just a new storytelling medium: it is an initial foray into the design space that emerging brain-computer interface technologies are creating. In the future, the boundary between our minds and our technologies will blur. We will become our books. Or perhaps they will become us...

To find out more, follow .

Hannu Rajaniemi is the author of the science fiction novels The Quantum Thief and The Fractal Prince, and several short stories.

Samuel Halliday is a chartered mathematician, software engineer and leader: a data scientist.

floating heads