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orizon Digital Economy Research has collaborated with the

artist and engineer Brendan Walker, founder of the creative

company Aerial, to explore how biosensing technologies

can enhance thrilling experiences across the entertainment sector.

Through Brendan’s multifaceted Thrill Laboratory performances, they

explored the use of wearable and networked biosensors that capture

heart rate, galvanic skin response (used as a measure of emotional

response), and facial muscle movements, alongside acceleration

data and video, to enable new forms of entertainment.

Brendan says: “There have been two related technical thrusts to this

work. The first has been to establish the underpinning technologies

for capturing various forms of biodata from participants on

rollercoasters and other thrilling experiences and transmitting it to

spectators so that they can share in the experience. The second has

involved also using this captured biodata to create human-in-the-

loop interactive rides in which a robotic ride platform monitors and

adapts to its riders’ physiological responses.”

This research has had far-reaching impact. As an example,

the results have led television companies to experiment with

incorporating biodata into TV programmes. Their motivations have

been to provide close-up and unusual views of intense experiences

such as riding rollercoasters, but also to help support a common

narrative of the ‘scientific’ investigation of such experiences.

The lead item on the BBC’s Blue Peter in May 2013 shows two

presenters comparing their reactions to Alton Towers’ new ride,

‘Smiler’. Features were also aired on the BBC One Show, the BBC

popular science programme Bang Goes The Theory, ITV Daybreak,

Discovery Networks International and Discovery Canada. Radio

coverage has included BBC World Service and You and Yours.

“Not only did these various productions build on our published

research and reach many millions of people worldwide,” Brendan

says, “but also they employed our researchers as creative,

technology and data analysis consultants, and directly used the

technologies that we have developed to capture, analyse and

visualise biodata.”

The same research has been also been exploited by marketing

companies to create innovative campaigns for thrilling products.

Merlin Entertainment, the world’s second largest provider of visitor

attractions, used the technology and know-how to market two new

attractions, a ‘horror maze’ themed around the film Saw VII at Thorpe

Park, and a new interactive ride at The London Dungeon.

Brendan continues: “Summit Entertainment (part of the global film

production and distribution company Lionsgate) engaged us to help

produce a promotional trailer for their horror movie Sinister in which

audience members’ ‘fear factors’ were measured as they watched a

pre-screening of the film.

This led us to being engaged as consultants by the global

advertising agency TBWA to support their “Built to Thrill” brand

activation campaign for the NISSAN Juke car which involved

us conducting a series of thrill experiments to measure peoples’

physiological responses to various driving-related thrilling


Broadcasting thrill for television, advertising and public engagement