Films that watch you – interactive technology turns the viewing experience on its head

Thursday, 23 February 2023

An interactive film that uses face recognition technology to assess the mood of the audience and change the narrative to show what they respond to is being premiered at an event at Broadway Cinema in Nottingham on 24 February.

‘Before we Disappear’ has been created by Dr Richard Ramchurn who is Director of Albino Mosquito Productions and researcher at the University of Nottingham’s School of Computer Science. This film builds on Richard’s award-winning work on brain controlled cinema and is his second film exploring this theme.

Before We Disappear is an artistic response to human-caused climate collapse. In the form of an adaptive interactive film it challenges the audience to look at the reality of our situation. The audience watches a film that is watching them, reading their emotions and engagement and adapting the story in real-time.

Richard explains: “The interactive concept was to create a film that adapts to its audience. Unlike the traditional concept of interactive films the audience doesn’t actively choose what will happen, instead we use a camera and computer vision to adapt the narrative depending on how it is perceived the audience feels.”

The film was developed as part of Horizon’s co-production adaptive interactive movies (AIM) project. Dr Ramchurn has partnered with the Nottingham University spin-out company BlueSkeye, who develop machine learning, computer vision applications to assess mood among other physiological data. There will be a low light camera set up to face the audience that will pick out faces, the machine learning technology has been adapted to read audiences emotional positivity, (Valence) and strength (Arousal) to adapt the film in real time. It has three possible endings and around 15 narrative constructs.

Before we Disappear is set in the year 2042 where the UK is now a tropical region. Floods, fires, storms, civil unrest are common. It follows two main characters who have been involved in a series of high-level assassinations by autonomous weapons built by climate activists. They designed a selection algorithm that choose the positions and people that were to be targeted and killed. This system assessed the unit of human suffering caused by any one person’s actions based on how responsible they were for causing environmental destruction and how much they personally benefitted from it. The system calculated the minimum amount of people that were to be targeted to save the most lives. It was the trolly problem but on a global scale. And so, the system acted as a moral judge jury and executioner.

The film is being screened as part of a number of events at Broadway that are part of the LEADD:NG (Live, Experimental & Digital Diversification) programme. Hosted by University of Nottingham (UoN) and Nottingham Trent University, the LEADD:NG programme is a £1.6 million ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) programme, encouraging the adoption of immersive technologies for SMEs.

The 2023 event series offers a wide range of events from Introduction to Wearables, to Hybrid Audiences. Each event has been designed to help inspire exciting new concepts for customers, visitors, and audiences by exploring digital and immersive technologies.

We’re really excited to show the film as part of the LEADD:NG programme, the way we consume media is fast moving and the events give audiences a look at what the future may hold. We are constantly looking for ways to innovate with our filmmaking and the ambition for the technology and film is to eventually distribute it as an app.
Dr Richard Ramchurn

Trailer for ‘Before we Disappear’ can be viewed here:

To book to see ‘Before we Disappear’ or to find out more about other LEADD:NG events go to:

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Richard Ramchurn at

Jane Icke - Media Relations Manager Science
Phone: 0115 7486462

Notes to editors:

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