Mind Racer – Deakin's 2018 Open Day activation

An activation using Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) technology that enables players to propel a slot car around a track using only the power of the mind.

Case study

Hear insights from the team and have a look behind the scenes to see how Mind Racer was brought to life.

The brief and thinking

Digital innovation is at the core of Deakin's DNA and every year we develop an activation to run at our Open Days that pushes the boundaries and brings digital innovation to life for thousands of people.

For our 2018 Open Day activation we submitted a brief to creative agency Hardhat to create an experience that showcases an emerging technology in a way that is engaging and relevant for prospective students.

BCI is an emerging technology that enables a person’s brain impulses to control a physical object outside of their body. Importantly, BCI is one of the countless emerging technologies that Deakin is conducting research into, in the Cognitive Neuroscience Unit within the School of Psychology as well as the Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation. It’s an area that’s set to revolutionise several industries, including health, defence, communications and gaming.

Over several months, we worked closely with Hardhat to develop the technology, as well as Boom Studios who constructed the physical set, resulting in a unique and innovative activation, which we ran at our Melbourne Burwood Campus and Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus Open Days. We were thrilled to be able to make this exciting technology accessible to our prospective students through a unique, immersive and memorable experience.

Execution

Given the festival-like atmosphere of Open Day and the huge number of people it attracts, we knew the activation needed to be compelling. Choosing to develop technology that could be connected to a slot car track was deliberate – it ensured four people could be involved at once, allowed for an attention-grabbing set to be developed and brought an element of competition into the activation.

To make Mind Racer a technical reality, Hardhat took existing BCI technology and integrated it with their own bespoke race control software and hardware – which were developed from scratch – to be able to drive the slot cars using data received from the BCI headsets. The headset "decoded" patterns in players’ brainwaves and calculated an "attention" reading (between 0 and 100). This reading was sent to a computer over Bluetooth. The computer was hard-wired into the track and it controlled the speed of the car based on the attention reading.

Integrated into this system was a custom designed and developed front end, which received power data from the headsets and race data from the track to display real-time race and headset information. This enabled spectators to view each player’s (brain) power level and also their current position in the race on screens.

The creative elements of Mind Racer played an integral role in heightening the excitement around the activation. The Tron-inspired design included bright colours, neon lights and a futuristic sound track, which all helped to grab attention and amplify the action. Constructed by Boom Studios, the set was a spectacle in itself. The track was set up on a Mind Racer-branded platform, weaving in and around a futuristic cityscape. To engage the crowd, exciting animations were displayed on screens, including a pre-race countdown, post-race winner ‘congratulations’ screens and a looping Mind Racer logo in between races.

Results and effectiveness

Mind Racer was an incredible success and met its primary goals of showcasing an emerging technology that was relevant to Deakin and achieving positive brand awareness. More than 18,000 people viewed or participated in the activation across the two Deakin Open Days and drew overwhelmingly positive responses, such as:

  • "Mind Racer was amazing!"
  • "The focusing was really hard but it's a really fun game - really interesting."
  • "I thought something like that would be out of a science-fiction show. It was great."
  • "It's a next level experience actually – a futuristic one."
  • "That's the first time I've controlled a car with my brain!"
  • "I’ve never done anything like that before. It was wild!
  • "To see the movement by just concentrating was unreal."

The innovative nature of the activation meant staff fielded countless questions about the technology, enabling participants and spectators to learn about the research Deakin is conducting into BCI and how the technology will impact our lives in the future.

As a bonus, we were able to generate more than 500 leads (via a registration form that first-time players needed to complete), which we can now nurture through the key university and course selection processes students embark on immediately following Open Days.

Adding to the ROI of the activation, we reached 150k people through promotion of Mind Racer across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We also published an article explaining BCI technology and the research Deakin is conducting in it on the University’s content marketing hub, this.. This reached more than 40k people through social media promotion.

Additionally, we gained traction in the media with Mind Racer receiving coverage in the Geelong Advertiser.

Find out more

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