Indiana University

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Last modified: Monday, December 10, 2007

New laboratory lets IU Informatics faculty study interactive social media

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Dec. 10, 2007

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Two IU School of Informatics faculty researchers have received a multi-year funding grant from One-to-One, a Boston-based digital marketing company that will bring to Indiana University's Bloomington campus a one-of-a-kind research laboratory to measure media and user engagement.

Jeffrey Bardzell, assistant professor, IU School of Informatics in Bloomington; and Shaowen Bardzell, assistant professor, IU School of Informatics at IUPUI -- both professors with the School's Human-Computer Interaction Design program -- have been awarded the use of a neurological/physiological user engagement research lab (valued at $65,000), with additional funding at more than $50,000 per year to support research.

The lab, distributed by One-to-One under the name of Quantemo, uses a data-monitoring "lifeshirt" worn by test subjects. A wireless PDA device with removable data drive is employed to capture research information. Subjects are also fitted with a simple tiara-like head device measuring brain EEG waves, and non-invasive finger rings that monitor physiological modalities such as blood pressure and galvanic skin response (the measurement of the ability of the skin to conduct electricity caused by an emotional stimulus).

The lab also includes a computer display monitor outfitted with video cameras and infrared sensors for facial recognition and tracking eye movement. Most significantly, the system is capable of providing researchers with real-time data captured second by second, enabling researchers to identify subtle changes in engagement, and pinpoint them in both screen space and time.

"User-engagement testing in human-computer interaction is a hot field now with significant demand in both the academic and commercial worlds," said Jeffrey Bardzell. "This kind of lab is very new. I don't know of any other university that has all five modalities brought together in a single system like this."

The five modalities include physiological responses (heart rate, respiratory rate and galvanic skin response); neurological responses (EEG waves); behavioral responses (eye movement, mouse clicks and gaze tracking); facial recognition (facial expressions and body language); and traditional qualitative/quantitative research methods such as interviews and surveys.

"This holistic approach provides a comprehensive understanding of research participants' engagement with today's interactive experiences, and such results are highly valued in business, telecommunications and other fields," said Shaowen Bardzell.

"This is important because when you rely on interviews and surveys, there is a problem with cognitive bias -- there's always more going on than what subjects reveal," Shaowen Bardzell explained. "Using Quantemo's multiple modalities model we'll know a lot more about how users are reacting to digital devices and social media. There's no question that this is the next generation of usability testing, and it has implications for technologies designed for both the home and workplace."

This lab, to be called the IU Informatics User Engagement Research Lab, will be used to help generate a series of research reports on user and media engagement with social computing (e.g., Facebook), video games, virtual worlds (e.g., Second Life) and other computer-based interactions. The reports will be published monthly by One-to-One. While not a public research lab, the Bardzells anticipate it will be available to IU academic units submitting research proposals.

"The introduction of this collaboration is exciting for our company, as it rounds out our vision to provide brands, agencies and publishers with truly quantifiable, scientific data to help measure engagement in emerging digital media channels," said Jeremi Karnell, president and co-founder of One-to-One Interactive. "By combining Indiana University's School of Informatics research strengths with One-to-One's Quantemo research lab, this collaboration will deliver much needed insights into human emotional response to digital media and will provide the strategies and subsequent tools needed to optimize one-to-one dialogues with consumers."

Tyler Pace, an IU Informatics master's degree student in HCI, has been hired as a full-time research assistant. The lab will be located in Eigenmann Hall initially, with plans to relocate it to the newly renovated structure adjacent to the Informatics Building in Bloomington.

Contact either Jeffrey Bardzell ( or Shaowen Bardzell ( for additional information.

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