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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. See also Pensieve Flashback.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Cowboy Bebop episode "Sympathy for the Devil" has the "Alpha Catch", which shows a nearly comatose bounty-head's memory of a murder he witnessed.
  • Doraemon has a one-shot gadget, the Memory Hammer, which can project a person's memory through the eyes by thumping the subject in the head. Doraemon brings it out when Nobita and Suneo comes across an amnesiac man who forgot his own identity, only to get a bunch of different (sometimes weird) answers, from a wealthy man to a Yakuza kingpin up to falling off the Tokyo Tower at one point. It turns out that the amnesiac guy is an actor.
  • 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.
  • In Negima! Magister Negi Magi, Jack Rakan has a machine that turns his memories into a film reel, so that he can go through the Backstory without having to explain everything himself.

    Asian Animation 
  • In Happy Heroes, all five Supermen have memory projectors built into them, permitting them to show anyone their memories at any time. This has plot significance in one of the show's earliest episodes (episode 26), where Happy S. wants to remember a person from a memory in his projector he doesn't remember.

    Comic Books 
  • In The Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #39, The Green Goblin used a machine to project images from his brain of his past battles with Spider-Man.
  • Fantastic Four: In Fantastic Four (1961) #27, Reed builds 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 Superhero Origin. The device later returned so that Reed could communicate with a coma patient in an issue of Marvel Knights 4. In the Future Foundation arc, it's used to recreate the lost mutant powers of Artie Maddicks, who is otherwise mute.
  • Superman:
    • Kryptonian Thought Beasts from a Silver Age story showed 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 (1942): 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, as a means of painless interrogation, 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.

    Fan Works 
  • Rocketship Voyager: Captain Janeway and Tech Lieutenant TuV'k use an encephalo-adjuster to share memories and their associated feelings with Nee'Lix to create a sense of empathy, overcoming their Uncanny Valley reaction to making First Contact with an alien.

    Films — Animation 
  • 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 capable of controlling the minds of the people who are watching the device's images via TV screens. He sees that Bruce Wayne is thinking about bats and concludes that Bruce Wayne must be Batman.
  • Futureworld, the sequel to Westworld, has a machine that shows the thoughts and dreams the female protagonist is having.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In 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.
    • In Captain Marvel (2019), Vers is captured by the Skrulls and hooked up to a machine that displays images which she initially assumes are implanted Fake Memories, but are then revealed to be true memories from her forgotten past.
  • Minority Report: The visions of the Precogs are projected onto a screen.

  • In Ursula K. Le Guin's short story "The Diary of the Rose", a mind viewer is used against a supposedly insane engineer.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    • While being interrogated in the episode "The Space Museum", the Doctor is put up against a device that can transmit his thoughts onto a screen. The intent is to get answers based on what the Doctor thinks when asked a question, regardless of what he says out loud. It fails, as the Doctor just transmits images of random things such as an old-style big-wheeled bicycle when asked how he got there.
    • When Zoe joins the Doctor in "The Wheel in Space", he uses a mental projector to explain to her how traveling in the Tardis can be dangerous by showing her clips from "The Evil of the Daleks".
    • During the Doctor's trial in "The War Games", 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.
  • 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. This frequently involves naked ladies and Chelsea F.C., but now and again throws up an insight which is useful to the boys.
  • In one episode of House, 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. At least everyone else in the episode had a realistic level of skepticism. It's like only House realizes it's a TV show. 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.
  • In 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...
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: In the prologue skit of "Bride of the Monster", Joel hooks up a sleeping Crow to Cambot to see what Crow is dreaming about. It turns out that it's a hilariously and Awkwardly Gay Dream involving Tom Servo in a Candy Striper outfit.
  • The Prisoner (1967): The 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.
  • Quatermass and the Pit (TV and film versions) has a thought-visualizing machine called an "optic encephalograph" that shows racial memories of Martian genocide.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • In "Thanks for the Memory", 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 long coat, top hat, cane, and... underpants.
    • "Gunmen of the Apocalypse" projects Kryten's "dreams" onto a monitor.
    • In "Back in the Red", a machine is used to probe the crew's minds to obtain evidence in their hearing.
  • 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 in the show, it makes reappearances in several subsequent episodes.
  • In one episode of Stingray (1964), King Titan interrogates Troy Tempest using such a machine, without Tempest's knowledge.
  • 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.
  • In the That's So Raven episode "Vision Impossible", Raven's Clip Show — er, thoughts are projected onto a screen via a fancy machine.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the adventure "Dreams Dark and Deadly" from the Call of Cthulhu supplement Cthulhu Now, 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 an "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 (1994), 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.


    Western Animation 
  • In the Buzz Lightyear of Star Command episode "Star Smasher", Zurg uses a "Mind Probe" to retrieve plans for a trash compacter from the mind of one of the kidnapped LGMs. The plans appear on a computer monitor.
  • 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.
  • In the Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi episode "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 a mind probe hooked up to a large TV screen on Homer (and later, Maggie) in order to judge humanity.
  • In SpongeBob SquarePants, Plankton uses a machine to read through SpongeBob's memory and try to find out the Krabby Patty formula. The machine breaks when resident Cloudcuckoolander Patrick uses it.
  • Steven Universe: Future: In the episode "In Dreams", Steven's bedroom TV accidentally became one of these due to Steven's psychic powers interfering with the TV signal while he was asleep. Steven and Peridot decide to use this interference to do their own version of a reboot of one of their favourite shows after being thoroughly disappointed with the real reboot that was being taped before Steven's dreams got into the signal. However, due to the unpredictable nature of dreams, these plans fell apart and were abandoned after a nightmare.

    Real Life 
  • Researchers at the University of California, Berkly, are starting to figure out how to do project pictures 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... What's disturbing/fascinating about this is that while it's now still very crude, in the reconstructions of videos featuring people, the shapes are identifiable as humans. Other video subjects tested, like text and the elephant are more crude and unrecognizable, but you can actually tell when the subjects watched videos of people.
    • There is discussion about this potentially being used in various ways in courtrooms once it becomes advanced enough, but as of right now there is too many problems that will keep this from being feasible for (presumably) a long time, like how expensive it would be to do this, for one thing.
    • There has already been attempts to "watch" sleeping people's dreams by putting the images they are seeing while dreaming on a screen, but this hasn't quite worked yet.
  • One proposed use for this sort of technology is for a more secure substitute for computer passwords. Possibly, in the future some people would choose to log on to things by using something like a brainwave scanner instead of typing in a password. In theory, this would make it really difficult for people to hack into these accounts.

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