Oblivion: Thrill Laboratory

Oblivion: Thrill Laboratory


Alton Towers invited Brendan Walker to stage a Thrill Laboratory event based at the park in 2008. Walker chose to focus the event on riders of Oblivion, the world’s first vertical drop roller coaste. The resulting event was billed as the UK’s largest study of thrill seekers, contributing towards Walker’s goal to define the Walker Thrill Factor.

Walker created a Laboratory environment with activities borrowed from Psychology experiments. He worked with graphic design company Hyperkit to design the Rider Thrill Dossiers used at the event, and recruited Thrill Technicians from the University of Nottingham’s School of Psychology to conduct the experiments.
Walker continued his collaboration with the Mixed Reality Laboratory to further develop rider physiological monitoring technology, which was operated by Thrill Technologists from MRL at the event.

Walker also invited two members of SHUNT to act as Senior Thrill Technicians (a promotion from Fairground: Thrill Laboratory), to conduct special assignments, and escort riders on their long journey from Laboratory to ride (equipped with their Funfair Sickness Bags). Over three days 80 riders were batch processed through the Laboratory’s mixture of scientific and surreal experiments which included:

  • Psychological profiling, assessing thrill seeking tendencies.
  • Rider monitoring, capturing facial expressions, audio commentary, heart rate, stress patterns, and the G-Forces.
  • Analysis of ride videos and data in the laboratory.
  • Mug-shot photographs, exploring riders’ ability to fake emotions.
  • Spot the difference, assessing focus and concentration.
  • Memory maps of each rider’s emotional journey on Oblivion.
  • Palmistry, assessing prehistoric thrill seeking lineage.

The growing collection of completed Thrill Dossiers and videos were exhibited in the Laboratory. Walker is continuing to work with the Mixed Reality Laboratory and School of Psychology to analyse the data. The event was covered by on television by ITV, BBC1, BBC1 Live, and Discovery (North America).