Emotional roller coaster as drivers tackle hillclimb

Riley Riley

Some of the participants at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed wore their heart on their sleeve — literally.

They were hooked up to a monitor that recorded their emotional responses as they blasted up the famous English hill.

Data from biometric sensors was fed to Sensum’s ‘empathic AI’ algorithms to analyse live.

Using this information the tech startup was able to produce an on-going score or map of each racer’s emotional response to the track, with results that ranged from ‘ice cool’ to ‘wild’.

Those participating in the innovative test were:

  • Anthony Reid, driving a BAC Mono. Established veteran racer, best known as a touring car champion
  • Gian Maria Gabbiani, driving an Italdesign Zerouno. Eclectic motorsports man, including powerboat world champion
  • Michael Rutter, riding a Honda RCV 213 V-S. Biking champion, best known in the Isle of Man TT, both for winning it and for the fastest lap on an electric bike
  • Paul Swift, driving a Ford Mustang Bullitt. Seven-times British motor champion, best known as a stunt driver with several appearances on Top Gear

Our featured map shows how ‘ice cool’ or ‘wild’ the racers were throughout the course.

The ‘wildest’ emotional response levels were concentrated around the two main corners, including the notorious Flint Wall.

This is encouraging for the experimental technology because the wildest emotions occur at sections reported as being the most challenging.

Another interesting finding was the strong correlation between high levels of ‘wild’ responses and low track times.

In other words, the fastest racers were also the most excited or stressed — rather than the calmest.

This could suggest that the faster people were performing in a heightened state of alertness, ‘on the edge’ where their performance is optimal.

Technology like Sensum’s could provide race teams with data to optimise both the health and performance of racers.

With moment-by-moment analysis it could provide insights as to which parts of the track are the most emotionally challenging, or when racers need to rest.

In the consumer market, all the major automotive manufacturers are exploring how to integrate this kind of empathic technology into their vehicles.

This could not only save lives, for instance by detecting driver fatigue or intoxication, but also improve the quality of the transport experience.

heartEach participant in the was equipped with the following:

  • Android mobile running Sensum’s empathic AI processing software Synsis 
  • Equivital chest belt and SEM data unit

Key data streams measured:

  • Heart rate (ECG)
  • Heart rate variability
  • Breathing rate
  • Speed and acceleration
  • Location (GPS)

The Ice Cool metric was largely derived from heart rate variability, which is scientifically associated with a wide range of emotional states including stress.

The algorithm to detect the Ice Cool metric was customised especially for Goodwood but has been designed to serve as a reliable detector of stress in vehicle occupants.

CEO & Co-Founder of Sensum, Gawain Morrisson, said in future we will see many applications of this empathic technology, from life-saving safety features to improved comfort and entertainment for vehicle occupants.

“In motorsport, we can look forward to an exciting new form of audience entertainment that displays the live emotions of the racers,” he said.

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