Over the past 25 years, the Goodwood Festival of Speed has grown from a 1-day event where 10s of thousands came out to see vintage automobiles race up the hill on the Goodwood House grounds, to a 4-day event drawing over 100,000 with showcases of classic racing and modern production cars and motorcycles, and the latest technology.
One of the most interesting features this year was a technology display by UK technology start-up Sensum, which analyzed the emotions of drivers and riders as they raced up the hill and displayed them to festival visitors in real time (a world first display).
Racers wore biometric sensors that captured data to be analyzed by Sensum’s “empathic AI.” The data was used to produce a running score of each driver or rider’s emotional response to the track. The emotional responses were displayed on a scale ranging from “icy cool” to “wild.”
Sensum’s empathic AI technology analyzes data from biometric sensors (such as heart-rate monitors), facial expressions and voice patterns. It applies it to the surrounding environment (in this case the Hillclimb course) to produce real-time understanding of the human’s emotional state in relation to what his happening to him/her.
Via an interactive touchscreen in the Future Lab on the Goodwood House grounds, visitors were able to see each participant’s emotional journey on the Hillclimb before, during and after each run, as well as each vehicle’s speed and location.
The exercise revealed several interesting findings. Perhaps least surprising was that the “wild”est emotional responses happened around the course’s two most challenging corners — Molecomb, where the course is lined by a flint wall and a line of trees casting shadows over the track, and the first corner, which is essentially two fast corners leading to a pass in front of Goodwood House.
Another interesting finding, especially in light of the belief that the best drivers have “ice in their veins,” was that the runs with the highest levels of “wild” responses turned out to have the fastest times. In other words, being “cool under pressure” was not as effective for fast driving as being the most excited and stressed out. Another finding showed that riders were more “icy cool” than drivers, but that could be attributed to the fact that motorcycle runs are no longer timed (following a fatal crash at the initial event in 1993)
The results could be extrapolated to mean that optimal performance comes from a heightened state of awareness of what’s going around the driver, though more study would likely be needed to conclude that. Sensum also measured emotional responses of a jetpack pilot, stunt driver and the VR experience from the driverless Roborace car.
To that end, Sensum believes there may a market for the technology in development of race drivers (both in optimizing their health and performance, and in helping them see which sections of a track are most challenging) and production vehicles (by detecting levels of mental fatigue or stress, and in reducing stress levels at the wheel).
“In future, we will see many applications of this empathic technology, from life-saving safety features to improved comfort and entertainment for vehicle occupants,” said Gawain Morrisson, CEO & Co-Founder of Sensum. “In motorsport, we can look forward to an exciting new form of audience entertainment that displays the live emotions of the racers.”