Hyphen Labs is a immersive design collective made up of women of color, and they were showing a sci-fi VR experience at Sundance this year called Neurospeculative Afrofeminism. Their VR experience features black women as some of the pioneers of brain optimization, and you get to experience a futuristic neurocosmotology lab where you can receive transcranial stimulation. As you get this neuroplasticity treatment, you’re transported into a magical world that features speculative products that feature women of color as the center of the design narrative.


I had a chance to catch up with Carmen Aguilar y Wedge, Ashley Baccus-Clark, Ece Tankal, and Nitzan Bartov at Sundance where we talked about the process of writing a love letter to black women and creating an experience that helps them live into a future that they want to help create. Wedge cites the quote “You can’t be what you can’t see,” which provided inspiration for them to create an experience where they could create virtual characters within a context of technological innovation in order to directly stimulate neural pathways and re-wire their own brains using the principles of synaptic plasticity.

nsaf vr (1)It’s an open question as to whether or not it will ever be technically possible to do Matrix-style with neural injection where you’re essentially directly hacking the senses. At the MIT Technology conference, I had a chance to see Kernel founder Bryan Johnson who was talking about implanting a chip into the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s or Dementia in order to see if it’s possible to use computer-generated neural coding to help improve the memory of these subjects. MIT graduate student Seongjun Park was able to deliver a “combination of optical, electrical, and chemical signals back and forth into the brain” by using tiny fibers. This three-in-one design claims to enable both genetic, chemical, optical, and electrical inputs and outputs to the brain.

It’s possible that directly interfacing with the brain with computers will be possible and completely mainstream in 50 years. It’s starting with treating brain diseases, will likely move onto cognitive enhancement, and perhaps eventually move to further brain optimizations. But it’s also unknown whether or not direct neural interfaces will prove to be better than using our existing perceptual system inputs that are able to correlate our subjective experiences and emotions into the context of the processing of data inputs.

The principles of embodied cognition indicates that the process of memory creation involves the entire body as well as your contextual environment. There also may be a layer of consciousness and meaning that is a holistic system that proves difficult to directly bypass in order to increase the bandwidth of input into the brain. This is still mostly within the realm of speculative sci-fi, but these recent news items that are paving the pathway toward the type of future that Hyphen Labs is painting within their Neurospeculative Afrofeminism VR experience.

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  • Get Schwifty!

    But…. shouldn’t we be moving beyond any color as the center of a narrative? Just saying…

    • Raphael


    • brandon9271

      What, “Afrofeminism” doesn’t sound all inclusive to you? lol ;P I seriously wish people would see the absurdity of identity politics. Just tell me about the cool research they’re doing. I don’t care that they’re black or that they’re female.

      • Mike

        Exactly. Well put.

        “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character”.
        -MLK (must be rolling in his grave right now)

        The recent identity political division is not what MLK wanted. Nor the suffragettes.

        This is “strike one” for Road To VR. Two more and I’m unsubscribing and refusing to ever click another of their articles. /r/vive is all I need for VR news.

        • brandon9271

          You must have missed the VR animal rights article. It was a real gem too. http://www.roadtovr.com/using-vr-tool-cultivate-compassion-condition-one/ Sadly, it doesn’t seem you can EVER escape political agendas. Which in my opinion is the entire purpose of entertainment, gaming, VR, etc. To ESCAPE. If i want to hear shit like this I’ll listen to NPR.

          • Mike

            Well that article could be worse. At least it’s a legitimate matter of opinion, rather than pushing lies and dividing by race and sex, and calling me as a (mostly) white male “privileged” when that’s the exact opposite of my lived experience (other than the privilege of being middle class in a stable family).

            But yeah, politics should be reserved for political sites – not VR, which is to escape the stresses and problems of the real world.

        • Nigerian Wizard

          The entire VR and video game industry is infested with leftist politics because it’s full of virtue signaling rich folk. Earlier this week at GDC, they were actually giving an entire lecture to people about how great Marxism is FOR VIDEO GAMES. They aren’t even trying to hide it anymore. Social marxism is real and a lot of the times you are seen as a racist if you disagree. RoadToVR is probably just trying to fit in.

    • Maybe one day we will when comments such as this don’t arrive like clockwork.

      • Reels Rihard

        I’m of color and agree with Schwifty. All we need to know, the tech they’re working on, or using, not their color focused cause. The whole “propping up” this type of people and that type of people for what they should already be doing or are doing is bullshit. The tech is what’s important here. Why? Because it can be used beneficially by anyone for different ideas. The tech, if great, will speak for itself. In doing so, the tech and it’s creators will receive the credit they rightly deserve. As much as some people want people to believe it’s the 50s and 60s, the 70s even, it isn’t. Things aren’t perfect either but it’s not near what it was.

        • And yet you told us “I’m of color.” Fits in your narrative here but not elsewhere? You claim it, but others can’t? How about if you were invisible? You might be interested to know that you are invisible in facial recognition software which is coded without color consciousness. See what happens when color is ignored. http://www.ted.com/talks/joy_buolamwini_how_i_m_fighting_bias_in_algorithms?utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=tedspread

          • Reels Rihard

            I put it there so there’s no assumptions on who’s writing what. Schwiftys and subsequent agreements with him, many times tend to get labeled as white people spouting, white racists/supremacy these days. This isn’t particularly true. That’s why I put it. Let’s not pretend this isn’t the case right now. Nvm, point conceded. You are correct, my mistake. I had other reasons but they don’t really matter.

    • OgreTactics

      We will but independently of such corrupt ideologies, because thank god the vast majority are getting ready to speak-up against it with fists if necessary.

  • OgreTactics

    While I hate the underlaying bullshit theme that is so common in art school bachelors project (it’s frightening how much these people seem devoid of both intelligent and soul), this seems like a very interesting digital/VR art experience. But I hope it’s not one of those event/SXWX/Sundance only experience, I would hate it even more.

  • DM

    So is white a colour? As a white guy where do I fit? Am I a “person of no colour” now? This is so much BS.