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World-first cinema capable of measuring audience response to open in Bristol

A computer-generated image of the Instrumented Auditorium AHMM Architects

A computer-generated image of the exterior of The Coal Shed, where the Instrumented Auditorium will be housed AHMM Architects

Press release issued: 27 July 2023

One of the world’s most innovative cinemas, capable of monitoring audience reactions like never before, is coming to Bristol.

Officially called an Instrumented Auditorium, the 36-person 150m2 cinema has received a £400,000 funding grant from the Wolfson Foundation to equip it with state-of-the-art monitoring equipment to record data on audience members and how they react to the content they are watching and hearing. 

It's due to open in May next year at the MyWorld creative hub at The Coal Shed on Avon Street, St Phillips, as part of the University of Bristol's new Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus.

Thanks to this additional grant, the controlled environment will record audiences' biometric responses to what they're watching and hearing, including their heartrate, eye movement and brain activity.

Researchers will even be able to monitor the electrical properties of people’s skin to gauge their subconscious emotional and sympathetic responses.

These new insights will help make better, more engaging content and underpin future commissioning, directorial and production approaches to using emerging creative technologies. 

There is also enormous potential for future applications of this research, for example linking individual differences in response to mental health, including conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Iain Gilchrist, Professor of Neuropsychology at the University of Bristol, said: "If we want to understand whether a new experience or new technology is working, we have to ask the audience.

"The Instrumented Auditorium will allow us to stream data that captures audience responses moment by moment, providing unique insights that take us way beyond current questionnaire-based methods.

"This is the first fully instrumented facility of its kind in the world, which is exciting not just for us as researchers but for those working in the creative sector, providing insights which will shape the future of film, television and beyond."

The auditorium will be just one of the world-leading research and development (R&D) facilities at The Coal Shed on Avon Street, where MyWorld and Bristol Digital Futures Institute (BDFI) will be based.

MyWorld is led by the University of Bristol in partnership with 12 other organisations, including Bristol Old Vic, Watershed, Aardman Animations, the BBC and BT.

The new facilities, alongside training and production activities, a Reality Emulator, and open collaborative co-creation spaces, will open a world of R&D to creative and digital organisations, big and small, in the region and beyond. 

The Wolfson donation builds on the £30m Strength in Places Fund (SIPF) from UK Research & Innovation and a £29m investment from Research England’s UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF) to support the existing strengths in the West of England to create a global centre of technology innovation in the creative and digital sectors.

These facilities will catalyse new research and development, enabling businesses to access pre-market trends in technology, accelerate product and process prototype development via funding and facilities, and access training to create a talent pool ahead of the market.

Oscar De Mello, MyWorld Operations Director, said: "Through MyWorld we are collectively investing in the research, training and studio infrastructure across the West of England, to ensure that this area is recognised globally as a Centre of Excellence for Creative Technology Innovation.

"Support from the Wolfson Foundation is invaluable to us in ensuring that the benefits of this investment make the biggest impact possible on the research community and can be accessible to all for the wider benefit of our region."

Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation, said: "From our beginnings, the Wolfson Foundation has been committed to funding infrastructure for high quality scientific research as well as for performance spaces.

"This innovative project at Bristol brings these two interests together, and we look forward to seeing what research emerges from MyWorld about audience response to immersive and digital performance."

Further information

About the Wolfson Foundation

The Wolfson Foundation is an independent charity with a focus on research and education. Its aim is to support civil society by investing in excellent projects in science, health, heritage, humanities and the arts.

Since it was established in 1955, some £1 billion (£2 billion in real terms) has been awarded to more than 12,000 projects throughout the UK, all on the basis of expert review.

Twitter: @wolfsonfdn

About MyWorld

MyWorld is built on the production, technology and research strengths of the West of England region to create a globally unique proposition for creative technology research and innovation.

Bringing together 13 diverse partners across academia and industry, from the University of Bristol and the University of Bath, to the BBC, Bristol Old Vic and Aardman Animations. MyWorld’s strength lies in the collaboration between these incredible organisations, working together to not only create the cutting-edge in creative technology but to create a more prosperous, equitable and sustainable West of England.

MyWorld is using investment into creative technology to stimulate growth and societal change in the industry and in the region. It’s the place where science, engineering and art meet, and we're working to make them accessible to everyone.

The MyWorld programme provides opportunities for businesses of all sizes to:

  • Discover: Access pre-market trends in technology via an extensive research programme in our partner Universities
  • Build: Accelerate product and process prototype development through access to innovation funding and production facilities
  • Learn: Access MyWorld skills development training or create a talent pool ahead of the market through academic and industry short courses

All of this in one, world-leading, collaborative, interconnected region in the West of England.


About Bristol Digital Futures Institute

The Bristol Digital Futures Institute is a £100m initiative to develop cutting-edge digital innovation, and transform the way we create them, for more sustainable inclusive, and prosperous futures. Working with over 100 researchers and 28 partners, the institute is developing the physical facilities and ecosystems to catalyse digital innovation differently. 

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