Beau Lotto

The Lab of Misfits

Creating physical and digital experiences in the real world and measuring their impact on human perception through neuroscience, artistry and design

dr. r. beau lotto and his lab of misfits ​…
where behavioural change begins with perceptual change.

Mission:​ The world is in a moment of massive change, and we must adapt as individuals, societies, institutions and even governments if we are to thrive. Change is essential. The biggest barrier to change is perception. As a leading international Neuroscientist who studies perception for 25 years, Beau and his Lab of Misfits seek to employ the principles by which the brain makes meaning to enable the world to literally see differently and thus become more adaptable in a changing world. By breaking down the walls of the traditional laboratory and studying ​humans in the wild (their natural habitats), his ‘Lab of Misfits’ uses immersive and digital design to create measurable insights that informs and transforms at all levels of human endeavour.

Beau Lotto: ​Dr. Beau Lotto is a Professor of Neuroscience, author, and entrepreneur. He is a three-time main stage TED speaker with 9 million combined views. In addition to TED, Lotto has spoken at the G8, Google’s Zeitgeist, Wired, Davos, Canne Lions Creativity Festival, Burning Man and the Oslo Freedom Forum among many others. He has contributed to television, radio and podcast programs by the BBC, National Geographic*, HBO, Wharton on Business Radio, and PBS. He is a frequent keynote speaker at major corporations including J&J, Warner Music, Universal, Viacom, Sainsburys, Microsoft, Google, Apple, the UAE’s Crown Court where he speaks about the fundamental barriers to thriving in uncertainty and how to overcome them.

He is author of two books: ​Why We See What We Do,​ and ​Deviate: The Science of Seeing Differently​ (​Review​). He received the Josef Albers Prize for ‘Disruptive Innovation’ at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, and was the first Creator in Residence at Viacom. His research on perception explores the ways in which we are conditioned to see the world through our own versions of reality at the cellular, computational and behavioural levels.

He was born in Seattle and earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of California, Berkeley in 1991. He then moved to Scotland, where he earned his PhD in Neuroscience from University Medical School, Edinburgh in 1994. He remained in Edinburgh for his first Postdoctoral Fellowship (with Professor David Price), and then moved to Duke University for his second Fellowship, where he was mentored by Professor Dale Purves.

Academic Career

He was a Professor at University College London for 20 years, and is now a Professor at University of London, as well as a visiting scholar at New York University. He has mentored over 30 Undergraduate, Masters and PhD students, as well as Postdoctoral fellows. Beau and his lab have published over 70 peer-reviewed articles across multiple disciplines including ​human perception​,​physiology,​ ​molecularandcellulardevelopment,​​animal(includinghuman) behaviour,​ ​digitalmusic​,​graphtheory,​ ​complexsystemstheory,​ ​computationalevolution​, artificial intelligence,​ ​architecture,​ ​theatre a​ nd​ design​. His science lab received funding from a wide range of institutions including the Wellome Trust, the Leverhulme Trust, the BBSRC, EPSRC and MRC.

Lab of Misfits ​Studio

In 2001, Beau Lotto founded The Lab of Misfits Studio, the world’s only Neuroperception Creative Studio that is ​also ​a real Neuroscience Lab. The Lab’s goal is to foster adaptability and creativity. Their unique process of ​Experiential Experiments​ unites neuroscience expertise and measurement with digital technology and immersive design. The world is their lab: They study humans ‘in the wild​’ in theatres, public space, even across entire cities! In doing so, their work unveils the essential truths that drive human decisions within human natural habitats. The resulting scientific discoveries and media content are quantifiably validated and unique, invaluable to the stakeholder and shareable via earned & paid media, as well as emotional and actional to audiences. The Lab was the first ‘open lab’ in the UK when it took up residency with London’s Science Museum. They have since created public experiences around the world, including the Hayward Gallery on London’s South Bank, a public art installation in London’s famous Silicon Roundabout. Their past clients included Cirque du Soleil, L’Oreal, Asurion, Microsoft, Edelman, The UAE’s Crown Prince’s Court and others. The Lab of Misfits currently powers the neuroscience offering at ​Burson Cohn & Wolfe​, one of the world’s largest public relations and communications firms.

Lab of Misfits AR

Dr. Lotto is also CEO and Founder of the Lab of Misfits AR, which holds five highly influential patents in Augmented Reality (AR), with two further patents pending. Using its technology and exclusive patented IP, the Lab creates digital platforms and/or custom, proprietary digital interactions that layer the world with immersive digital content. Examples include the GPS-based AR apps called Traces, Acoustigram and W_nder. All of which focus on story-telling tied location adding a layer of meaning to the world that has hitherto been impossible.

Traces: ​
Acoustigram: ​ W_nder: ​



Lotto, Beau. Deviate, The Science of Seeing Differently. New York: Hachette Books

Purves, Dale and Lotto, Beau. Why We See the Way We Do: An Empirical Theory of Vision. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates.

Selected Scientific Publications

Paper: Bergstrom I, Lotto RB Code Bending: A New Creative Coding Practice 2014/10/31 MIT Press The MIT Press, 1 Rogers Street, Cambridge MA 02142-1209 USA journals-info@ mit. Edu (2014)
Paper: Bergstrom I, Lotto RB Soma: Live musical performance where congruent visual, auditory, and proprioceptive stimuli fuse to form a combined aesthetic narrative 2014/8/26 MIT Press The MIT Press, 1 Rogers Street, Cambridge MA 02142-1209 USA journals-info@ mit. Edu (2014)

Paper: Moutsiana C, Garrett N, Clarke RC, Lotto RB, Blakemore SJ, Sharot T. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Oct 8;110(41):16396-401. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1305631110. Epub 2013 Sep 9. (2013)
Paper: Tibber MS, Manasseh GS, Clarke RC, Gagin G, Swanbeck SN, Butterworth B, Lotto RB, Dakin SC. Vision Res. 2013 Aug 30;89:1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.visres.2013.06.006. Epub 2013 Jun 29. (2013)

Paper: Corney, D, Haynes, J, Rees, G, & Lotto, RB : The Brightness of Colour. PLoS ONE (2009)
Paper: Clarke, R., and Lotto, R.B. (2009) Visual processing of the bee innately encodes higher-order image statistics when the information is consistent with natural ecology. Vision Research. 49(11):1455-64.

Paper: Corney, D. and Lotto, R.B. (2007) From the cover: What are lightness illusions and why do we see them? Public Library of Science Computational Biology 3:e180.
Paper: Lotto, R.B. and Wicklein, M. (2005) Bees encode behaviourally significant spectral relationships in complex scenes to resolve stimulus ambiguity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA 102:16870-16874.

Paper: Lotto, R.B. and Chittka, L. (2005) Seeing the light: Illumination as a contextual cue to color choice behavior in bumblebees. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 102:3852-3856.
Paper: Haynes, J., Lotto, R. B. and Rees, G. (2004) Responses of human visual cortex to uniform surfaces measured with fMRI. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA 101:4286-4291.

Paper: Andrews, T. and Lotto, R.B. (2004) Perceptual rivalry is contingent on the perceptual meaning of stimuli. Current Biology. 14:418-423.
Paper: Lotto, R.B. (2004) Visual development: Experience puts the colour in life. Current Biology 14: pp. R619-R621.

Paper: Lotto, R.B. and Purves, D. (2002) From the cover: A rationale for the structure of colour space. Trends in Neuroscience 25:82-86.

Paper: Lotto, R.B. and Purves, D. (2001) From the cover: An empirical explanation of the Chubb illusion. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 13:547-555.
Paper: Lotto, R.B. and Purves, D. (2000) From the cover: An empirical explanation of color contrast. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA 97:12834-12839.

Public Art Installations

Beau (with Mark Lythgoe and Mark Miodownick) were the first scientists to exhibit at the Hayward Art Gallery on the South Bank in London when they were asked to take part in the Dan Flavin Retrospective. His illusions, created with Dale Purves, have been exhibited in 30 science museums around the world, and published in multiple books on illusions. His work has been included in arts events at the Serpentine Gallery in London, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, as well as a solo show at the Wellcome Trust Collection. He currently has a live public art installation at ‘Silicon Roundabout’ on Old Street in London called Ommatidium commissioned by Transport for London.

External Links

R. Beau Lotto and Lab of Misfits at TED​ ​”How We Experience Awe and Why It Matters” (TED Oct 2019)
R. Beau Lotto at TED “Science is for Everyone, Kids Included” (TED Oct 2012)
R. Beau Lotto at TED “Optical Illusions Show How We See”​ (TED 2009) rently-by-beau-lotto-review

BBC: “Do You See What I See”
BBC: “Why is Everyone Asking: What Color is This Dress”
National Geographic: The Amazing Ways Your Brain Determines What You See Google: Deviate Talk
Wired: “Reality is not what it seems: the science behind why optical illusions mess with our minds”​ (May 1, 2017)​: “Is this the real life? The neuroscience of perception offers us an answer”