Computer Business Review

Are you happy, tired, bored? Your chair will know about it

CBR Staff Writer

14:45, May 8 2014

The University of Nottingham’s Smart Chair 'reads minds' using sensors.

Imagine a chair that can read your emotions or know what is on your mind. Sound far-fetched?

It may soon be a reality if the efforts of researchers at The University of Nottingham yield results.

The university's Department of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering, in partnership with Horizon Digital Economy Research, has developed a prototype smart chair that notes the movements of the user through sensors.

The chair, when combined with a face reader, eye tracker and heart rate measuring device, will help deduce users' emotions and know if they are happy, anxious, relaxed or attentive.

How it works

The chair is implanted with various sensors, both off-the-shelf and specialist.

According to the university, the Phidget System in the chair is made up of a number of cells that detect the distribution of body weight in the seat area.

The headrest of the chair has a Force Sensor Resistor (FSR) while the armrests have sensors and a buzzer that can be programmed to give feedback to the user.

The computing-based technique Fuzzy Logic represents the data produced by the devices to ensure the accuracy of the predictions.

Horizon Digital Economy Research research fellow Dr Patrick Muratori said: "Human beings are very complex. The technology we are using is aimed at capturing the large amount of physical data from our bodies and translating it into useful information about how we might be reacting to the stimuli around us."

Where can the smart chair concept be used?

The smart chair technology is expected to be useful in areas where knowing users' current state of mind is helpful in offering them customised products and services.

Various applications from gaming technologies and interactive movie experiences to new in-car safety features are being envisaged by researchers.

Gaming chairs may be made to sense a user's likes or dislikes in regards to a particular game and offer a personalised experience.

In cars, the technology can read the driver's body language and alert them to fatigue.

Smart chairs used to watch TV can apparently tell if the viewer is enjoying a particular programme or if they are uninterested, said Horizon.

Horizon is a partnership of Research Councils UK, The University of Nottingham and over 100 academic and industrial partners.

The smart chair project forms part of the organisation's wider Affective Computing project.


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