Posted by: Marshall Sponder | February 21, 2008

Measuring Engagement using physiological responses to media

Four or five years ago I was fascinated with Wild Divine because there was an interactive game with interesting graphics that was influenced by your physiological state – doors would open or close based on when you were “ready” or calm, or excited.   The game has several levels but it’s limitation was the mystical vision of the company which ended up serving as a advert for  Deepak Chopra, Dean Ornish and Dr. Andrew Weil, especially Deepak Chopra, who is featured in the game.

What Wild Divine could have been, was much more, because they had created an easy to deploy biofeedback device and it’s associated drivers that could measure engagement.  Yes, wireless (Bluetooth) connectivity would help – but the cheesy game, and the lack of a community that was allowed to build additional stages and levels of the game, is what did Wild Divine in for me.

There’s no reason why Wild Divine could not have been played over the internet with the same devices but more real interactivity.

And that brings me to what this post is about – Measuring engagement directly (which I read in The Net-Savvy Executive) proposed that companies are measuring customer engagement in ways that are very similar, but not as interesting, as the way Wild Divine does it.

“…. Innerscope Research goes back to the original definition by observing physiological responses to media. They connect test audiences to biometric sensors that measure respiration, motion, heart rate and skin conductance, with eye-tracking to track attention.

Once the test subject is suited up, Innerscope can observe what the subject is watching and the subject’s response. Physiological responses are faster and more accurate than conscious answers, and the metering supports an analysis across the duration of the media exposure. The basic logic is simple: if the content makes you sweat or raises your pulse, you’re engaged.

Attention + Intensity = Engagement

Innerscope has run experiments with both TV ads and viral videos. While the engagement vest isn’t going to become standard attire for media consumers, it does suggest a possible test for competing definitions based on more convenient data sources.”

Maybe the only addition would be Eye Tracking – Innerscope uses it, Wild Divine doesn’t.

In other words, if you really want to measure engagement, you can, a physical state.



  1. To more fully appreciate the theoretical underpinnings of using physiologic biomarkers to measure engagement, I recommend that you peruse The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life by Joseph LeDoux and Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain by Antonio R. Damasio. Also, please note that Innerscope uses a suite or array of sensors which unobtrusively measure more than just subtle, otherwise imperceptible, changes in sweat and pulse rate.

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