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Mental Picture Projector

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"Dr. Jackson, I'm afraid we have some bad news. Your memory appears to be a Clip Show."

"He's thrashing around while he's having his dream, and his dream can be seen on the monitor screen!"
MC Mothmaster Murf, "Amazing RoboCop Rap"

Speculative Fiction 's answer to literally seeing what's on your mind via a form of an Applied Phlebotinum Machine that hooks up to your forehead and projects your thoughts in visual form onto a screen for all to see.

A cousin trope of Magical Security Cam. Compare Mind Probe, where this technology is explicitly used for torture.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima!, Jack Rakan has a machine that turns his memories into a film reel, so that he can go through the Back Story without having to explain everything himself.
  • Lupin III gets hooked up to one during The Mystery of Mamo. The result, much to the surprise of the title Mad Scientist, is that the image is nothing but live-action photos of women, Inspector Zenigata and candy. Further in, his mind is nothing but an empty void.
  • In Love Hina, Kaolla Su builds a device so that people's dreams may be put on the television. Obviously, Keitaro suffers because of it.
  • Trinity Blood had one of these at the Vatican's disposal, but it was very painful for the witness and showed only picture, not sound.
  • Cowboy Bebop has the "Alpha Catch", which shows the last thing a nearly-comatose bounty-head saw before he was hurled out a window.

    Comic Books 
  • Fantastic Four #27 has Reed build a "Thought Projector" that creates images based on the thoughts of the wearer. It is brought out of storage in #126 so Ben can have a Flashback to their Origin Story. Returned again so that Reed could communicate with a coma patient in an issue of Marvel Knights 4.
    • Then in the Future Foundation arc it's used to recreate the lost mutant powers of Artie Maddicks, who is otherwise mute.
  • In Amazing Spider-Man #39, The Green Goblin used a machine to project images from his brain of his past battles with Spider-Man.
  • Superman:
    • Kryptonian Thought Beasts used to do this in a Silver Age story, showing what the person they were near was thinking on their triceratops-like forehead shields. They showed up repeatedly in Krypton stories. Often as not, the image depicted the beast's intention of stomping flat their targets.
    • Kryptonian society also rendered artists moot with their device that allows painting by thought.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: One of Paula von Gunther's one-shot inventions was a device that showed the thoughts of the person strapped into it on a screen like a film.

    Comic Strips 
  • Mandrake the Magician frequently does this as a means of painless interrogation. He hypnotizes the target to sit still and then literally causes their memories to appear on a wall like an old fashioned movie projection (usually revealing the villain of the week they worked for).
  • Calvin and Hobbes: Aliens abduct Calvin and hook his brain up to a computer monitor where they bring up all of Calvin's (incorrect) math knowledge and delete it from his cranium.

    Films — Animation 
  • Lewis's Memory Scanner in Meet the Robinsons.
  • WALL•E: When the Captain wants to see what happened during EVE's expedition, he sticks a miniature projector on her head and watches the playback. Justified, since she is a robot.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Batman Forever: The Riddler has a device that can do this. He sees that Bruce Wayne is thinking about bats and concludes that Bruce Wayne must be Batman.
  • Futureworld (the sequel to Westworld) had a machine that showed the thoughts and dreams the female protagonist was having.
  • The chair that can monitor RoboCop's dreams as mentioned above.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame: Nebula has a camera built into her mechanical eye that records all of her lived experiences, which is used against her in both films. In Infinity War, Thanos finds a conversation between Gamora and Nebula that reveals Gamora knows critical information about the Soul Stone, and in Endgame, a time-traveling Nebula from the year 2023 unexpectedly interfaces with her 2014 self, allowing the 2014 villains to learn about the Avengers.
    • Captain Marvel, Vers is hooked up to one of these after she’s captured by the Skrulls. Vers assumes that the machine has implanted Fake Memories into her, but it soon becomes apparent that these really are from her past. She spends the rest of the film trying to figure out how she got from Point A (a human woman named Carol) to Point B (Vers of the Kree Starforce).
  • Mom and Dad Save the World
  • The Memory Eraser from Flash Gordon.
  • The plot of Santo en El Tesoro de Drácula involves a miraculous time travel device invented by the Masked Luchador El Santo. His friend Luisa makes the trip back to the past, because, curiously, women are better suited for surviving the process than men. In any event, Santo also has the technology to monitor Luisa's journey back in time. Conveniently, it displays pictures and camera angles, and even scenes where Luisa is not physically present — almost as if the characters were watching a film of Luisa's adventure!
  • Minority Report: The visions of the Precogs are projected onto the screen.

  • The Isaac Asimov short-story "Think!" featured an auditory equivalent, allowing two people with electrodes hooked up to their skulls to communicate thoughts directly. The scientists involved were rightly sceptical and perform several tests to make sure they aren't imagining things. When they try a control test, by directly connecting the input electrodes to each other, the scientist on the receiving end suddenly looks terrified and pulls the electrodes apart moments afterward. Apparently, he heard the machine itself start to think...
  • In Ursula K. Le Guin's short story "The Diary of the Rose", a mind viewer is used against a supposedely insane engineer.

    Live-Action TV 
  • That's So Raven, "Vision Impossible": Raven's Clip Show er... I mean thoughts are projected onto a screen via a fancy machine.
  • In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, John Henry, a T-888 Terminator hooked up to an advanced AI, has screens that project images related to what he's thinking about.
  • There was an episode of Stingray (1964) where King Titan interrogated Troy Tempest using such a machine, without Tempest knowing it.
  • Quatermass and the Pit (TV and film versions) has a thought-visualising machine called an "optic encephalograph" that shows racial memories of Martian genocide.
  • The Prisoner (1967) episode "A, B and C" involves a machine that can read Number 6's dreams and memories, but by the end of the story he is controlling the images.
  • Done many times on Doctor Who, most famously in the Narmful "no, not the Mind Probe!" moment in "The Five Doctors".
    • Other notable examples include the first Doctor being interrogated, but because he's being flippant, the screen shows only random objects, and the second Doctor's trial in "The War Games", wherein he mounts his defense by using thought projection to show images of the great enemies he has fought, including the Cybermen, the Daleks, and... The Quarks. Since the Quarks were a one-off and markedly crap villain — and not even the proper enemies in that episode anyway (they were just service robots working for the Dominators), it has become something of a running joke in the Expanded Universe that the second Doctor has a weird and inexplicable Quark obsession.
    • Another example occurs when the Second Doctor creates a mental projector with the scanner to explain to Zoey how traveling in the Tardis can be dangerous by showing her clips from "Evil of the Daleks".
  • Stargate SG-1: In "Out Of Mind", a machine is used to project holograms of SG-1's Clip Show memories. Like almost anything that shows up on the show, it makes reappearances in several subsequent episodes.
  • Red Dwarf: "Gunmen of the Apocalypse" projects Kryten's "dreams" onto a monitor.
    • Again in "Back In The Red" when a machine is used to probe the crew's minds to obtain evidence in their hearing.
    • Also used for an earlier joke in "Thanks For The Memory" when Lister and the Cat go to the room that generates Rimmer when he's asleep and can see what he's dreaming: singing a song while wearing a longcoat, tophat, cane, and...underpants.
  • Farscape: the Aurora Chair is a sadistic version.
  • One episode of House had one of these. I kid you not.
    • At least everyone else in the episode had a realistic level of skepticism. It's like only House realizes it's a TV show.
    • A bit of context: The patient was having unexplained seizures and out of body experiences. After running every diagnostic they can think off, they haul out a highly experimental "brain reader." They first show the patient a series of pictures, so the machine can analyse how her brain processes pictures. Then, when they ask her to think of one particular thing, they get a very fuzzy, very basic outline of her mental image. So, it's not exactly making a 3D hologram of her thoughts, but it seems plausible, maybe 20 Minutes into the Future.
    • The best part was while everybody else is shocked that it worked at all and marveling at how amazing it is to be able to read someone's brain, Foreman is skeptical about the image itself being useful:
    House: Anyone ever tell you you are a MASSIVE buzzkill?
    Everyone Else Present: YES.
  • On I Dream of Jeannie, Doctor Bellows tells Major Healey they'll be monitoring his dreams while he's in the shuttle (presumably in terms of brain activity), he assumes it's this trope, and advises not to construe anything from his more interesting dreams...
  • Used in Power Rangers Operation Overdrive to facilitate a Recap Episode / Clip Show. Handwaved in that the guy whose mind they're scanning is a robot - they're just accessing his recorded video files.
  • Used in the clip show "A Blast for Buck" on the series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century on Buck.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: Had a skit where Joel hooked up Crow to a machine that revealed what the later was dreaming about on a TV screen. Turns out it's a hilariously embarrassing dream involving Tom Servo.
  • In The Goodies, Graeme Garden uses the power of the Cricklewood Computer harnessed to Bill Oddie's brain, via the interface of a sherbet dab, to project his train of consciousness onto a monitor screen. frequently this involves naked ladies and Chelsea F.C. but now and again throws up an insight which is useful to the boys.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Call of Cthulhu supplement Cthulhu Now, adventure "Dreams Dark and Deadly". A dream research institute develops technology to read the dreams of sleepers, and can project them onto TV screens so others can watch them.

    Theme Parks 
  • The short-lived Journey into YOUR Imagination ride at Epcot featured a "Imagination Scanner", which at first showed that the riders have a boring, cobweb-filled mind when it comes to imagination, but at the end showed that the riders' minds are now bustling with creativity.

    Video Games 
  • In Earthbound, after completing one of the late-game Sanctuaries, Ness's thoughts are projected and visibly scroll across a neon wall where he begins asking himself about his journey and his progress. This is one of only two times that Ness has dialogue in the game.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi, "Spaced Out": The Banana Aliens have our heroes Strapped to an Operating Table and use a "Brain Probe" to project their thoughts onto a monitor. Ami thinks about a Sugar Bowl inhabited by bunnies. Kaz thinks about swimming naked in a pool of money. Yumi thinks about beating the pulp out of their captors.
  • In a Clip Show episode of The Simpsons, Kang and Kodos used one of these on the Simpsons in order to judge humanity.
    • In the early 90s tie-in book "Bart Simpson's Guide To Life", Bart's dream bedroom includes a Video Dream Recorder.
  • In Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, the Gromble uses one of these to view his students' scares and grade them. The projection is done through the student's eyes, even if they're away.
  • Batman: The Animated Series "The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne" had Hugo Strange connect Bruce Wayne to such a device and thereby deduce that Bruce must be Batman.
    • It sort of helped matters that he got Bruce to all but say "I'm Batman" in a therapy session, while the monitor showed a black-gloved fist clenched over the Bat Signal.
  • Buzz Lightyear of Star Command "Star Smasher", Zurg uses a "Mind Probe" is retrieve plans for a trash compacter from the mind of one of the kidnapped LGMs. The plans appear on a computer monitor.
  • An audio version is used on SpongeBob SquarePants, used by Plankton to read through SpongeBob's memory and try to find out the Krabby Patty formula. The machine breaks when resident Cloudcuckoolander Patrick uses it.
  • Drawn Together: In one episode, Wooldoor presents a slideshow to the housemates using his head as a projector. Eventually, the "projector" heats up and he burns to death, and we are then shown a slide of his funeral.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: In "Anger Mismanagement", an anger management therapist uses such a device Grim, Mandy and Skarr as part of an exercise to help them improve their mental health.

    Real Life 
  • Researchers at the University of California, Berkly, are starting to figure out how to do this with the waking mind, by having a subject watch a video, recording what happens in their brain, then trying to re-translate it into video. While crude (you can find examples with a carefully worded search on certain popular search engines), the technique is still in its infancy, and could very well lead to dream mapping in twenty years or so...

Alternative Title(s): Screen Projected Thought Machine, Mind Reading Machine, Mental MRI


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