Today, at the university of nottingham’s annual Mayfest open day, the vicarious system had a second simultaneous excursion, this time within a wider Horizon stand and aimed at exposing families to the existence and affectibility of biodata. Parents, nominated by their generous offspring to receive torture, were “wired up” with a selection of biomonitoring equipment – in this case sensors for Blood Volume Pulse (BVP), Electrodermal Activity (EDA) and Electroencephalography (EEG). We used a Vilistus 8 for the BVP, a Nexus 10 for the EDA and an Emotiv for the EEG. We also filmed the “victim” using an HD camera, and displayed this as part of the visualisation. There was certainly no shortage of kit on offer – and plenty of interesting variety in inputs for vicarious to wrangle. While the parent was being prepared, the child or children were given a menu of “tortures” to which they could subject their parents. This would begin with a starter to demonstrate the effects of a known stimulus: Choices being “The Tickle Stick”, “Cuddle The Big Moose”, “Off With Their Head” and “Captain Underpants”. These would be proceeded by plunging one’s hand into a mystery box, the “main course” of the torture, designed to eleicit one of four responses pleasure, pain, surprise or disgust.
As was perhaps inevitable, the disgust box (in fact containing a large bowl of rather revolting cold and starchy spaghetti), proved vastly popular, with the pain box (icy water) coming in second. Demonstrating that “surprise” should probably have been called “fright” (putting your hand in triggered a bursting balloon and a personal alarm) this box was rarely selected, so too it appears few children except for those very young ones have any interest in letting their parents away with “pleasure” (a particularly soft cuddly bear) when things like disgust and pain are available. All in all a good time was had by all – well most anyway: some of the beating meeted out with the foam sword and inflatable scythe during “off with their head” were frankly savage.