Out of their minds: Nottingham research used in thrilling ride that adapts to riders' brain activity

A graphic of Professor Brendan Walker on Neurosis
11 Mar 2015 16:59:55.610
Thrill seekers brave enough to test drive a new mixed-reality ride will only have themselves to blame if they find it a little too wild for their taste. 

For the new attraction uses research from The University of Nottingham to adapt the experience to the rider’s own brain activity.

The new ride — Neurosis — has been developed by technology-inspired performance artist Professor Brendan Walker, a principal research fellow in the University’s School of Computer Science, dubbed the ‘world’s only Thrill Engineer’.
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It draws on research being conducted by Professor Walker and academics at the University’s Horizon Digital Economy Research institute which is developing novel ways of using biosensors to capture and present data from the human body.

Neurosis will receive its world premiere at the FutureFest festival taking place in London this weekend. 

The pursuit of pleasure

Professor Walker said: “The fairground has a long tradition of being a place that the public can literally ride new and emerging technology in the pursuit of pleasure and excitement. Neurosis is a ride that will appeal to anyone fascinated by the recent explosion in body monitoring technologies and services on offer, the personalised entertainment experiences they might be able to help create, or simply those looking for new types of thrilling experience.”

Neurosis features a six-degree-of-freedom motion simulator and virtual reality headset to immerse the rider in a surreal environment controlled not by a ride operator but by the rider’s own brain activity.

This activity generates an audio-visual virtual world where pathways emerge, tumbling, twisting and twirling the rider through a psychedelic landscape. The rider’s real-time neurological responses to music, motion and visible wonders activate fairground lighting.

The neuro-data constantly transforms the futuristic ride artwork while music pumps and the simulator mechanism undulates and sways.

Creative applications

The Performing Data research group at Horizon. Led by Professor Steve Benford, is developing the digital data management technology which sits at the heart of Neurosis and is being developed as a flexible set of tools for the creative industries. It allows data to be gathered from any sensor, analysed and broadcast for use in a growing number of creative applications including TV and the entertainment industries.

For Neurosis, the Performing Data platform is being used to monitor brain activity and to make that data available to a sound artist, a virtual world games designer, theatre lighting designers and the controller of the motion platform, developed by researchers at Middlesex University — all of whom will respond in real time.

Professor Walker, through his design company Aerial, has been commissioned to deliver the site-specific ride by Nesta — an innovation charity dedicated to helping people and organisations bring to life great ideas that could potentially improve all our lives — with ride development funded by Arts Council England. 

Nesta uses FutureFest to gather some of the planet’s most radical thinkers, makers and performers together to create an immersive experience of what the world might be like in decades to come.

Taking place at Vinopolis on 14th and 15th March, this year’s programme includes appearances by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden; fashion designer and activist Vivienne Westwood and Jon Ronson, author of The Psychopath Test and The Men Who Stare at Goats.

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Our academics can now be interviewed for broadcast via our Media Hub, which offers a Globelynx fixed camera and ISDN line facilities at University Park campus. For further information please contact a member of the Communications team on +44 (0)115 951 5798, email mediahub@nottingham.ac.uk or see the Globelynx website for how to register for this service.

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with campuses in China and Malaysia modelled on a headquarters that is among the most attractive in Britain’ (Times Good University Guide 2014). It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK among graduate employers, in the top 10 for student experience according to the Times Higher Education and winner of ‘Research Project of the Year’ at the THE Awards 2014. It is ranked in the world’s top one per cent of universities by the QS World University Rankings, and 8th in the UK by research power according to REF 2014.

The University of Nottingham in Malaysia (UNMC) is holding events throughout 2015 to celebrate 15 years as a pioneer of transnational education. Based in Semenyih, UMNC was established as the UK's first overseas campus in Malaysia and one of the first world-wide.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…

Story credits

More information is available from Professor Brendan Walker on +44 (0)208 983 0293, 07775 891 492, studio@aerial.fm; or Emma Thorne, Media Relations Manager in the Communications Office at The University of Nottingham, on +44 (0)115 951 5793, emma.thorne@nottingham.ac.uk 

Emma Thorne Emma Thorne - Media Relations Manager

Email: emma.thorne@nottingham.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793 Location: University Park

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Published Date
Thursday 13th October 2011

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