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APEX of Fear: New Project at the Lab

With a generous grant from the Danish Innovation Fund, we launch a new research project on enhancing user experience of VR horror though affective computing

What if you could step into a horror simulation that adapted to your own fear – a virtual world of pleasurable terror tailor-made just for you? Maybe that sounds like science fiction, but we’re hoping to develop such a technology through a new grant.

This new grant, which was awarded by the Danish Innovation Fund under their InnoExplorer scheme, now allows us to launch a new research project at the Recreational Fear Lab. We call it “APEX of Fear,” but the full title is “Affective Player Experience of Fear (APEX of Fear): Enhancing User Experience of Horror through Affective Computing.”

The purpose of this one-year research project, which runs through 2022, is to investigate the market potential of an affective gaming solution that uses psychophysiological measures and machine learning to create a horror experience in virtual reality – but not any old horror experience. This experience will be immersive, interactive, and personalized, combining the best of existing horror solutions will adding a new dimension. In short, we’re aiming to set up a warehouse-scale horror attraction that uses state-of-the-art virtual reality hardware in combination with a real-time adaptive affective gaming solution to keep players in the “sweet spot of fear.” This is cool because it allows us to develop our research on recreational fear and investigate its potential for a groundbreaking consumer product. In turn, this product will generate a wealth of data on recreational fear.

For this project, we will be working closely with our collaborators at Dystopia Entertainment, who are market leaders in interactive theatrical horror productions in Denmark. Their know-how on how to create immersive and interactive horror experiences will be crucial to the project.

We will be hiring the psychologist and developer Thomas Terkildsen to lead the project. Thomas comes with great knowledge of affective gaming, horror psychology, emotion research, machine learning, psychophysiological measures, and much else. He will be developing the tech and the software for APEX of Fear, and we are very much looking forward to welcoming him!

Thomas will be working with a team of internationally renowned experts, including Professor Regan Mandryk (University of Saskatchewan), a pioneer in the field of affective gaming; Associate Professor Lennart Nacke (University of Waterloo), an expert on game design and human-computer interaction; Professor Georgios Yannakakis (University of Malta), a leading researcher in the field of player affective modelling; horror event designer Jonas “Architect of Fear” Bøgh (Dystopia Entertainment), and director of the Recreational Fear Lab, Associate Professor Mathias Clasen.