Monday, April 6, 2009

Software to divine your emotional responses

Sunday's Globe column profiles iMotions, a Danish company that has gotten funding from MIT honcho Ken Morse and PR guru Andy Miller, two local angel investors. They've got some space at the Cambridge Innovation Center, and will likely be expanding their local presence this year.

From the column:

    "More than 90 percent of purchases are based on emotional response, not rational thought," says iMotions chief executive Peter Hartzbech. "You want to be rationally convincing, yes, but you also need to be emotionally engaging."

    Unlike systems that require plastering sensors on the body to gauge changes in a person's heart rate, breathing, or perspiration, all iMotions asks is that you sit in front of a flat-screen computer monitor. The $30,000 monitor, made by another company, bounces a beam of near-infrared light off of your eyes. IMotions processes the input from the monitor to analyze two key factors: How often are you blinking, and what are your pupils doing?

    Essentially, pupil dilation and a faster-than normal blink rate can indicate that you're excited - iMotions prefers to use the terms "engaged" or "involved" - by what you're seeing. The company's pitch is that by showing a new product design, package, or advertisement to consumers earlier in the creative process, and tuning in to this kind of "precognitive" response, companies can figure out what will resonate with consumers more quickly and less expensively than with traditional research. (A sample group of about 30 peo ple is necessary for good statistical results, Hartzbech says.)

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