A Middlesex University team have taken part in a first of its kind project, developing a 'Thrill-O-Meter' used to measure a baby’s reaction to various foods for organic baby food company Ella’s Kitchen Brands.
Working alongside Middlesex professor Brendan Walker, whose consultancy The Thrill Laboratory was commissioned to create the 'Thrill-O-Meter', the team of engineers built the device which measures a child’s physiological reaction to stimuli. Using sensors that track changes in a baby’s Galvanic Skin Response (GSR), they looked at changes in the skin’s electric current in response to different types of food, which lit up coloured lights on the meter indicating the level of reaction. This was combined with analysis of facial expressions and body language to determine the babies’ response.
Unlike adults who verbalise their preferences, babies’ tastes had remained relatively unknown which led to the thrill-o-meter’s creation. Ella’s Kitchen now plan to use the results to enhance its range of baby foods.
Reaction to foods from bananas and papayas to red peppers and sweet potato was measured and, with a high score on the thrill-o-meter revealing that the baby was more excited by the food. From the food tested, babies had the greatest physiological reaction to mango, followed by cinnamon.
Middlesex professor Brendan Walker said: “It's been great working with the team from Middlesex University's Design Engineering and Mathematics department. Development of the thrill-o-meter required a special blend of product and interaction design training, which really pushed the team’s electronics, programming and physical prototyping skills. The machine not only had to look fantastic to entertain the babies, but it also had to work as a serious scientific tool.”
The team was made up of professor Brendan Walker, Zeeshan Badar, Mohammed Binyamin, Puja Varsani and Nick Weldon. In his industry, professor Walker is known as a ‘thrill engineer’, and regularly carries out consultancy work with theme parks and other similar companies to create attractions with high excitement and fear levels.
Zeeshan Badar said: “It was a really interesting project and required a lot of research to create the bespoke device, as there aren’t products like it on the market. We worked very hard on it and were pleased with the result.”
Professor Brendan Walker using the thrill-o-meter with a baby