Interactive Cinema

Interactive Cinema

film negetives

Heather Brown speaks to Keith Bound about his interactive film company Receptive Cinema, which allows viewers to influence the film that they are watching through their natural responses.


Interactive cinema has come a long way since the 1960s when films were stopped and audiences were asked to vote for what happened next.

Switching: An Interactive Film by Morten Schjødt, released in 2003 used DVD controllers to determine the outcome of a film, while Violaine Meunier’s 1998 film Hypnosis made the most of the internet allowing users to interact through clicks to produce a complete film.

Keith Bound, however wanted to find a more natural way of connecting with films than mouse clicking or voting and moved from initial trials using controllers to researching physiological reactions to films.

Keith Bound

Keith Bound

The concept

As part of his ongoing research into interactive cinema, Keith completed an MA in digital design and media in 2009, which enabled him to create a study based on theoretical and practice-led research, investigating complex issues in human psychological and physiological responses to cinema, film and narrative.

In October of the same year he exhibited his Interactive film installation called Receptive Cinema™ as part of a Thinktank educational programme at Birmingham Science Museum.

Receptive Cinema allows users to engage with multiple video streams running simultaneously side by side. The drag & drop style gestural interface, rear projection, infra-red camera and LED pointer enables the user to influence the narrative by actively interacting with the video streams, manipulating, moving and merging them together into a variety of organic forms or a coherent single stream.

The video streams are represented within a circular format replicating a view through a telescope, creating an alternative perspective from the traditional rectangular frame.

The content and narrative theme is based on a journey because it is a generic term to describe a variety of life experiences. The word journey also has a connection with the words film and narrative, i.e. a passing from one state to another.

Without any pre-formulated narrative the process invites the user to fill in the gaps and develop their own meaning and create different narrative trajectories.

Interactive film in education

Keith soon noticed the different ways the schoolchildren reacted to the experience: “The girls were very interested in the idea and really got involved creating their own montage of kinetic images and different narratives and stories”.

“I hate to use stereotypes, but the boys wanted more action and a more gamey feel to it.”

Education is just one of the ways in which Keith can see the interactive films being used.

"I can see receptive cinema being used in health & wellbeing, advertising, and interactive film."

Cisco I-Prize

In March this year, Keith presented Emo-vie™ to the Cisco I-Prize board.

"The panel were looking for the next billion dollar business for Cisco and it got me thinking about how human-computer interaction could be improved through biofeedback technology.

"The competition gave my idea commercial credibility, and it gave me confidence thinking that influential people believed in my business."

Almost three thousand people from 149 countries entered the competition. Keith made it into the final nine and presented his idea to the emerging technology group.

“I was proud to be the only finalist from the UK and enjoyed presenting my idea to the board in California- albeit via a video link.”

Cinema screen

How will receptive cinema monitor the audience’s reactions?

At present companies are researching people’s reactions to information by monitoring concentration and retina reflex. Keith is looking into other ways of monitoring subconscious responses including heart rhythms.

“Most people think the heart is just a muscle, but it is more complicated than that. It has 40,000 neurons, like a mini brain, and can release hormones.

“The heart reacts before the brain and monitoring it would show a viewer’s natural reaction to a film."

Asked how it is possible to retain the collective nature of going to the cinema while still watching a film that is influenced by your emotions he said: “We would take an average reaction of the audience if there is a large group.”

"The way people react to the film would dictate how the film develops. If a person is feeling stressed the film could show their stress or it could produce a calming effect to alter their mood."

Research and funding

Keith hopes to find a UK based or international investor to help with a research and development programme.

“Ideally, I would like to develop the biotechnology over three years at the UK University I have been in discussion with.

“The research team would consist of a computer scientist, a life scientist, a product designer and a script writer.”

Keith is also considering studying interactive cinema at PHD level himself “as qualifications help people to trust that you are someone who knows their subject matter in depth”.

“I am looking to make a profit of £168 million through licensing the software to independent filmmakers, hardware and by offering SaaS.”


Advice to other inventors

Keith really enjoys the challenges of producing “real tangible products that make a difference to society” and in his previous job he filed six patents for industrial safety products.

“The products weren’t glamorous, but they made a lot of money for the company

“Any business needs to fill a gap in the market. You need to research your competition to make sure that your product or service is unique and can really make a difference to your audience.

“It is important not to rush your research or user-testing as some products are taken to market before they are ready.”

Relevant Links
Receptive Cinema
Receptive Cinema (video)