I had a really interesting shoot at futurefest on Saturday.
Including the world premiere of Neurosis, a mixed-reality thrill ride developed by Professor Brendan Walker’s Thrill Laboratory, with the support of Middlesex University, Horizon Research Institute, Arts Council England, and friends.
Neurosis features a six-degree-of-freedom motion simulator and virtual reality headset to immerse the rider in a surreal environment, controlled not by a ride operator, but by the rider’s own brain activity. This activity generates an audio-visual virtual world where pathways emerge, tumbling, twisting and twirling the rider through a psychedelic landscape.
The rider’s real-time neurological responses to music, motion and visible wonders, activate fairground lighting; this spectacular neuro-data constantly transforms the futuristic ride artwork. Music pumps as the simulator mechanism undulates and sways.
Another amazing bit of technology is the Blind Robot. In this installation, visitors are invited to sit in the front of this machine and engage into a non-verbal dialogue with the Blind Robot. The robot delicately explores the body, mostly the face, of the visitor in a manner that recalls what the blind humans are doing to recognize a person or an object.
My Robot Companion: Familiar, Would you prefer a robot if it looked like one of the family? This robot is able to take on the appearance of any face it sees or even combine features from a group of faces in order to promote bonding with it.
Of course this can also lead to a feeling of discomfort known in robotics as “the uncanny valley” (Mori, 1970), where users feel a sense of repulsion as robots become very human-like (in this case very like themselves and their companions) but stopping short of being wholly human.
There were loads of discussions featuring guests like Vivienne Westwood, Jon Cruddas MP, Natalie Bennett & Edward Snowdon.