Experimentation week is over! I have all the data I need for my graduation research, so now it’s on to the data analysis phase. I’m glad my girlfriend knows statistics, ’cause I don’t and even for her it’s hard to keep an overview, that’s how much data I have.
Also, it’s no longer necessary to keep quiet about the goal of my research so here’s the skinny:
in psychology there’s a theory, called the James-Lange theory of emotion, which states that emotions are a result, rather than a cause, of certain physiological events. As William James put it: you do not run away from a bear because you are afraid, you are afraid because you run. From this theory you can deduce that it should be possible to trigger, or at least stimulate, an emotion by inducing the associated physical state. And it was at this point that I thought: “Well, why not use that in entertainment?” So for almost a year now, I’ve been working on a way to do this and now I’ve created a chair that influences you physically while you’re watching a movie, in order to enhance your emotions and make the whole thing more immersive.
There are several ways in which my “emochair” (working title ) influences you. First of all, it changes position by putting the back of the seat upright into a tense position, or backward for relaxation. Secondly, it generates a vibration at the speed of your pulse, only slightly faster or slower so that your heart will adjust to that rhythm, again making you more stressed or more relaxed. And finally it influences your temperature: the back is fitted with heating pads that can increase the temperature and a fan can blow cool air into your neck. All this tries to nudge your emotions in a certain direction, which I have now tested on a total of 20 subjects.
I have yet to analyze the data, but one thing is clear already: it definitely has it’s flaws. It’s obviously a first prototype and I’m hardly an expert when it comes to electronics, so the physical manipulations weren’t exactly inconspicuous. Ideally you wouldn’t really consciously notice the chair doing anything, but as it was the back of the seat went from neutral to either position in five seconds, the motor that simulated a heartbeat was clearly audible and the fan ended up producing a high pitched whine. But while the chair has its share of shortcomings, I’ve learned a ton about electronics and I haven’t yet ploughed through all the data so who knows, something may have worked…
Anyway, it’s been fun doing this and now I’ll see what the actual effect has been. It’s almost nerve wrecking