Are horror films not scary enough for you? Than you might want to try watching them from the Chilly Chair, an offbeat invention that literally raises the hair on your forearms and back to enhance emotion.
You could say Shogo Fukushima’s invention is really hair-raising. The doctoral student who attends the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo wanted to create a device that would induce body hair to stand up, thus potentially intensifying people’s reaction to movies and video games. He came-up with a thing called the Chilly Chair, with weird forearm-rests that use electricity to reproduce the sensation usually activated by feelings of fear and surprise. The square arches of the innovative chair are made up of three layers; from the inside to the outside it contains an insulating dielectric plate, an electrode and a rubber plate. Electricity goes through the electrode polarizing the dielectric plate and attracts the user’s arm hairs making them experience a sensation similar to when picking up clothes charged with static energy. After testing the Chilly Chair on six subjects, Fukushima found they showed stronger reactions to video and audio stimuli.
The guys from Innovation Daily had the chance to experience Shogo Fukushima’s Chilly Chair firsthand at SIGGRAPH, a conference on interactive technologies. According to their report, the unique invention works like this: once the subject sits comfortably in the chair, Shogo’s colleagues activate the device and send 10 kilovolts of electricity through its arches. At the same time, the inventor himself activates a loud alarm and flashes a scary image on the projector screen in front of the chair (at SIGGRAPH he showed a wide-eyed man with a gaping mouth). Innovation Daily reporter Francie Diep says she and her colleagues had already caught a glimpse of the images before actually sitting in the Chilly Chair, but the hair-raising sensation alone was “a little unsettling”.
Although Fukushima has only tested his Chilly Chair on six subjects in controlled conditions before showcasing it at SIGGRAPH, he says the results are very promising. Three of the volunteers were blasted with the strong alarm while sitting in the chair, while the other three heard the loud noise without feeling the effects of the chair. His measurements showed Chilly Chair users had stronger reactions and they themselves rated their emotion as higher. Next, Shogo Fukushima said he would like to see how he can add sensors to the Chilly Chair that would measure people’s skin conductance to detect their emotions. This way, the chair would raise the users’ arm hairs to enhance the emotion they were already feeling. Such an invention could work with any form of entertainment, even a book, because it wouldn’t need to be linked to stimuli like a movie’s scary scenes. I hope he makes it work, because this sounds like a cool cinema experience, unlike 3D technology.