8+
Gallery 7

Batak

A large stainless steel square shape with cross beams from each corner, and light buttons mounted through the steel work.
A illuminated button mounted on a stainless steel vertical pole

Reaction times involve detecting a stimulus (such as a light) and responding to that stimulus (tapping the light).

How it works

Batak can be used by one person, or by two people in competition with each other (they will need to stand on each side of the frame).

  • Press either ONE player or TWO players (opponents should stand on opposite sides of the frame).
  • Next, press SENIOR (if the visitor can reach the top buttons) or JUNIOR (if the visitor can only reach midway).
  • Press START. When each round button lights up, tap it.
  • Check scores on the top bar for ‘your score’, ‘opponent’s score’ and time (30 seconds).

Things to try or ask around the exhibit

  • Try staring ahead slightly, so you notice the lights in your peripheral vision. This lets you pick up the movement of lights as they illuminate a little more easily and saves some time in having to turn your head.
  • Does an adult have quicker reflexes than a child? Or is it the other way around?
  • Do you play sport that involves catching or hitting a ball? Do you think your reaction time is better than other people’s reaction times?
  • Who is the fastest student in your class? Why might they be the best? Are they a natural sports person, a quick thinker, or do they have any other attributes that help them pass this test? Do they have the best technique? How can other students improve their reaction times?
  • Apart from sport, what other situations require fast reaction times? Have you ever suddenly baulked at stepping out onto a road, because you detected a car that you hadn’t seen before?

Background

Batak tests a user's response to stimuli (lights that illuminate randomly around the frame) and their hand-eye co-ordination. It can be used by one or two people in competition with each other. Scores represents the number of lights correctly tapped within 30 seconds, but it does not give a technical read out such as average reaction time in milliseconds per response.

Your peripheral nervous system works very quickly to help you see and hit the light targets in Batak. You detect the lights when visual sensory neurons are activated in the retina at the back of your eyeball, and an electrochemical message is sent through the optic nerve bundle to your brain’s visual cortex. Your quick-thinking brain realises that it must attack! So, using the cluster of neuron tissues that make up your spinal cord, it sends a message down via interneurons to the appropriate motor neurons. These motor neurons then activate certain muscles, helping you reach that light in time!

Peripheral vision (colloquially called the ‘corner of your eye’) also has a role to play in the speed and accuracy of your game, as you can detect movement, such as a light turning on or off, surprisingly well within your peripheral vision. The time it takes the peripheral nervous system to receive a signal from the eyes, ears, or skin, then send a message to the brain, then have that message processed and then sent to an appropriate muscle, is referred to as a reaction time. The average voluntary reaction time in humans is 215 milliseconds (0.215 seconds). There is also an involuntary reaction time that is processed by your central nervous system, such as touching a hot surface and withdrawing your hand a split second before you consciously realise the danger of burning your hand.

Finding the science in your world

Batak is used by professiona sportspeople to improve their reaction times and to improve their aerobic fitness and conditioning. The user's eyes must detect each Batak light, then their brain must ‘see’, process and respond to each light by physically controlling their hands to reach out and tap the light.