Humans crave entertainment, and a key part of being entertained is being “thrilled”. But what is “thrill”, and how do we understand and generate it? Professor Steve Benford, Brendan Walker and their team have been investigating the issue in order to develop the next generation of thrills.
Researchers at the University’s cross-disciplinary Mixed Reality Lab work with artists, broadcasters and advertisers to explore “thrill” and entertainment. They use biosensors — wearable sensors that capture heart rate, galvanic skin response and facial muscle movement data — to measure response to, and develop new forms of, entertainment.
There have been two separate technical aspects to the research: establishing the underpinning technologies for capturing biodata from participants on rollercoasters and other thrilling experiences, and using this biodata to create interactive rides which adapt to riders’ physiological responses.
Our research has been exploited by advertising agencies to help deliver unusual marketing campaigns for thrilling products. These include online and broadcast advertising campaigns across film (Sinister), automotive (Nissan JUKE), and entertainment industries (Merlin Entertainment). We’ve also influenced the development of experimental thrill rides – most notably ‘NEUROSIS: the world's first brain controlled thrill ride', commissioned by Nesta and funded by Arts Council England. The work we do also regularly features across TV, radio, and in print, engaging audiences through science (Discovery Channel's Daily Planet), art (BBC Two's Artsnight), and cultural debate (Radio4 Loose Ends). It also allows for engagement with adults and children alike (BBC's Blue Peter), not to mention inspiring and enabling pilots for two new TV entertainment shows on Channel4.