A Chair Designed to Make Horror Movies Scarier

If you'd like to be even more terrified at horror movies, researchers at Japan's University of Electro-Communications have just the right chair for you. The Chilly Chair will, on command, send mild electrical charges through you--just enough to raise your hair. The premise is that emotions are responses to physical changes, so changing a person's physical experience can alter his/her emotional experience:

Users sat in the chair, resting their forearms inside black tubes that arch over the armrests. To activate the chair, one of Fukushima's colleagues sent 10 kilovolts of electricity through the arches.

The arches are made of three layers. From the inside surface to the outside, the layers include an insulating dielectric plate, an electrode and a rubber plate. The voltage goes through the electrode, polarizing the dielectric plate. Users' arm hairs are attracted to the polarized material, so they stand up. People may experience a similar feeling when they take clothes out of the dryer that are charged with static electricity. [...]

At the same time Fukushima's colleague activated the Chilly Chair, he played a loud alarm sound and flashed an image of a wide-eyed, gaping-mouthed man on the projector screen in front of the chair. Unfortunately, we had already caught a glimpse of the surprised man photo while another SIGGRAPH attendee was testing the chair, so we were not surprised, but the hair-raising did feel prickly and a little unsettling.

It's still uncertain whether induced hair-raising truly enhances people's emotions, however. Before SIGGRAPH, Fukushima and his colleagues tested the chair under controlled conditions and saw promising results, but they had only six study volunteers.

In the study, three volunteers were suddenly blasted with an alarm while sitting in the Chilly Chair, while three heard the alarm without the effects of the Chilly Chair. Fukushima measured all six volunteers' skin conductance reactions, an electrical property of the skin that's known to change with fear and surprise. He found that Chilly Chair users showed stronger reactions. Chilly Chair users also rated their own surprise as higher.

Link -via Glenn Reynolds | Image: Shogo Fukushima, Hiroyuki Kajimoto

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