Doctoral student Shogo Fukushima, who studies at the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo, wanted to try artificially inducing the hairy reaction to intensify people's responses to movies and games.
"We want to enhance people's emotion," Discovery News quoted him as saying.
InnovationNewsDaily and other conference attendees tried out the chair Aug. 6 during SIGGRAPH, a conference about interactive technologies hosted by the Association for Computing Machinery.
Users sat in the chair, resting their forearms inside black tubes that arch over the armrests. To activate the chair, one of Fukushima's colleagues sent 10 kilovolts of electricity through the arches.
The arches are made of three layers. From the inside surface to the outside, the layers include an insulating dielectric plate, an electrode and a rubber plate.
The voltage goes through the electrode, polarizing the dielectric plate. Users' arm hairs are attracted to the polarized material, so they stand up. People may experience a similar feeling when they take clothes out of the dryer that are charged with static electricity.
At the same time Fukushima's colleague activated the Chilly Chair, he played a loud alarm sound and flashed an image of a wide-eyed, gaping-mouthed man on the projector screen in front of the chair.
It's still uncertain whether induced hair-raising truly enhances people's emotions, however.
Before SIGGRAPH, Fukushima and his colleagues tested the chair under controlled conditions and saw promising results, but they had only six study volunteers.
In the study, three volunteers were suddenly blasted with an alarm while sitting in the Chilly Chair, while three heard the alarm without the effects of the Chilly Chair.
Fukushima measured all six volunteers' skin conductance reactions, an electrical property of the skin that's known to change with fear and surprise. He found that Chilly Chair users showed stronger reactions. Chilly Chair users also rated their own surprise as higher.