The Heart Stops Here - The Biosensing Bucking Bronco

Finding a great idea to write about each day can be challenging. There are so many of them out there, that there is usually a process of elimination involved. I find myself looking for key things, like will this be of any interest to anyone besides me? and is this of any interest to me? and is this of any interest at all? To be featured on this blog is like choosing a savings account: it needs to earn plenty of interest.

So when I find a group calling themselves The Mixed Reality Lab (MRL), that are doing something in conjunction with the Thrill Laboratory, I just know something good must be coming my way. Hailing from The University of Nottingham, MRL "is a dedicated studio facility where computer scientists, psychologists, sociologists, engineers, architects and artists collaborate to explore the potential of ubiquitous, mobile and mixed reality technologies to shape everyday life."

And what could shape everyday life more than a bucking bronco?

Okay, don't answer that. Just read on.

Let's get to Brendan Walker's Thrill Laboratory, which "is dedicated to the practical pursuit of creating, producing, and examining new forms of thrilling experience." Walker claims to be "the world's only Thrill Engineer."

Walker has teamed up with Computer Science PhD student, research associate and mountain (yes, mountain) unicyclist, Joe Marshall, to develop the Broncomatic. This isn't your ordinary bucking bronco, this baby gives you "computer controlled adaptive bronco rides" that are operated with fancy-named software and hardware like Broncomatic Integrator and MindMedia Nexus sensors and ubiquitous computing. You just know, with terms like that, that it simply has to be interesting. Even if you don't know what it all means.

So I'll try and explain it to you. The Broncomatic uses biofeedback to determine how hard it bucks. Specifically: the faster and harder you breathe, the faster and harder it bucks! Cool Hand Luke could have stayed on it for hours; Basil Fawlty may have had difficulty getting on the thing.

This is just the latest adaptation in what appears to be an ongoing project. Here's their first experiment, where they let people control it, before handing it over to the computer. It'll be fascinating to see where they take it to next: