Thrill seekers

Nottingham University scientists have developed a live experiment that measures the ‘thrill factor’ of riding a rollercoaster.


Nottingham University scientists are helping to capture the essence of excitement with a live experiment that measures the ‘thrill factor’ of riding a rollercoaster.


Volunteers at Alton Towers will be linked up to a heart monitor, accelerometer, face-cam and other monitoring equipment to give a unique insight into their reactions to one of Europe’s biggest rides.


The aim of the rider monitoring system, developed by computer scientists at The University of Nottingham, is to help establish a definitive ‘thrill factor’ across thrill rides worldwide – and help to shape the next generation of rollercoasters.


Volunteer riders on the Oblivion ride – which features a 180ft vertical drop – will be subject to psychological and physiological tests as part of a ‘Thrill Laboratory’ being run at Alton Towers from September 19-21.


Experts at Nottingham University’s Mixed Reality Lab (MRL) designed and implemented the biofeedback and recording technology for the ‘Thrill Lab’.


The equipment allows physiological data to be recorded during the ride, including video of people’s faces, audio, heart rate, galvanic skin response and acceleration. Experts at the MRL are also involved in psychological profiling before and after the event.


Prof Steve Benford, of the School of Computer Science & IT at Nottingham University and one of the MRL’s principal investigators, said: ‘Our aim is to understand the impact that these rides have on people and to use this to help shape more responsive and exciting rides of the future.’


For this ‘Thrill Lab’ event, Alton Towers is joining forces with the world’s only ‘thrill engineer’, Brendan Walker, a former aeronautical engineer who specialises in the study of emotionally stirring experiences.


Walker, who will be running the three-day event, said: ‘Oblivion’s success as one of the world’s most exciting rollercoasters relies on a perfect synergy between extreme physical and dark psychological experiences, giving us a unique opportunity to study the science of thrills and shape the future of theme park rides.’