We have moved!

We have officially moved our blog over to http://www.sensum.co/blog  

Keep up-to-date with all Sensum news, including our new interactive music project Mu_


Sensum live demo for Nesta Hot Topics event on Emotional Machines

On 2nd July Sensum co-founder Gawain Morrison was invited to sit on a great panel as part of the Nesta Hot Topics Series for a discussion on the future of emotionally sensitive robots.

The Hot Topics series introduces the technological tools that will change our lives in the next few years, and the panel was titled ‘Emotional Machines: Is society ready for robot companions?’



The panel was chaired by Professor Brownsword, Professor of Law at King’s College London and the former founding director of TELOS - a research centre that focusses on technology, ethics, law and society.

Myself, Gawain Morrison, co-founder and Company Director of Sensum 

Kerstin Dautenhahn, Professor in the School of Computer Science at University of Hertfordshire, specialising in human-robot interactions

Ginevra Castellano, Senior Researcher at the Human-Computer Interaction Centre, University of Birmingham

And Brendan Walker, Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Nottingham, and recently appointed Professor of Creative Industries at the University of Middlesex

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Sensum Mu_

Mu_ is an interactive music project (developed by Sensum) that uses your body to compose a unique song. You are the conductor. You are the orchestra.

Through the use of sensors Mu_ puts you at the centre of creativity where your heart rate, emotions and movement depict how your personal ‘biosong’ will grow and change, with your body controlling the musical elements.

As the music unfolds so will your individual artwork.

How this is produced is entirely up to you. If you’re a hardcore raver, get your heart rate moving. If you’re a hippy at heart, slow everything down.

You control what happens.  

We are excited to be launching Sensum Mu_ at Culture Tech in Derry/Londonderry in September. The general public will be able to take part in this event from the 13th-14th September in the Foyleside Shopping Centre.

More details can be found here.


Apple V Microsoft ‘Sensum-Style’ at NI Science Park

NI Science Park Testing

The Aim?

To use the Sensum mobile platform to test some of N.Ireland’s science & tech heads with a pair of ads from two titans of the tech world, Apple & Microsoft, to see which brand elicits the greater emotional response from viewers.

The How?

To gather the necessary data for the A/B test Sensum ran the testing event at the Northern Ireland Science Park, the innovation hub for tech start-ups in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter.

Over a couple of hours we tested 25 individuals, male & female, with age ranges 18-24, 25-34 & 35-44.

We recorded individuals GSR [galvanic skin response] signals over the duration of the 2 advertisements and asked questions about how they felt about each brand’s attempts to lure them to their ‘side’.

The Videos

These were the 2 advertisements that we tested :

[The Apple iPad 3 Retina Display advertisement]

Apple as an established product are focusing on special features that can assist it’s users to be better specifically with it’s picture and video functions. As such it is informational but again with strong aspirational language “Everything is more brilliant”.

The core target market of middle and upper income people willing to pay more for a better experience are the main focus.

The pacing of the ad is slower, using recognisable music from previous ads, and only runs for 30 seconds.  The choice of children pictures and videos is specifically aimed at parents who want to record and playback those precious memories in the best possible definition.

[The Microsoft Surface advertisement]

The advertisement is a message of college life, school life, work life all integrating & you can have fun between work & play.

As a new product on the market it’s aim is to be aspirational and that anyone can use it no matter what your mobile use is.

There’s no mention of Windows 8, there’s no mention of the various apps, or device capabilities other than the snap back & keyboard. The advertisement’s core product message that it’s cover is a keyboard and that it can snap in with anyone’s tablet is an obvious differentiator between the Surface and other tablets.

It looks like they’re going for a younger market with a high energy ad with dancing, deep bass frequency and pacey music, along with a regular speed of visual transitions.


The Test Results

Already owned a device?

We asked what percentage of people owned an Apple iPad or Microsoft Surface to see if that would influence the results. 44% said they owned an iPad compared to 4% owning a Surface.



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Sensum ‘Listening Party’ for worldwide launch of Muse album ‘The 2nd Law’

Melissa watches the visualisation

Back in September 2012 we held our Sensum listening party for the release of Muse’s new album ‘The 2nd Law’.

It had started out to be an offifical event but at the 11th hour it was pulled by the label. We had put a lot of work into it so we decided to go ahead and run the event ourselves at Belfast’s Oh Yeah Centre.

At this exclusive event held on the release day of the Muse album a select few were able to view their emotional response live on screen as they heard the tracks from the album for the 1st time with a wide array of results.

Some were superfans, some were fans of their earlier work & there was even one person who said they hadn’t heard any Muse tracks before.

We sat them one at a time in a big comfy armchair in front of 2 hefty speakers stacks and played each person one track at a time.

A camera displayed the person’s image onto a screen & on that screen their GSR [Galvanic Skin Response] was displayed real-time so that everyone in the room could see whether they were enjoying the music or not. The more the person’s body got into the music the more they responded graphically on screen.

Noleen giving some interesting responses.

In one instance one of the superfans almost flatlined throughout the track and feeling very conscious that the room was watching their live signal on a large screen they closed their eyes willing themselves to like the music .. but the body doesn’t lie! To be fair they were a lover of Muse music but not dubstep and it was a dubstep track that they just couldn’t get into.

If you missed out on coming down yourself here is the video re-cap of what happened.

Of particular interest are the screens showing a number of users at once, and how different their responses were (not all to the same track however).

Thanks to everyone at Oh Yeah for letting us use the space & thanks to all who came down to make it a really fun & interesting evening.

And good luck to Muse for their new album.


Coca Cola could have saved themselves millions in airtime costs for Christmas advertising

What if you could save yourself millions in airtime costs by measuring an audience’s engagement levels?

By measuring the physiology of an audience you can understand their emotional engagement with your media allowing you to determine whether it is working for your target demographic before committing the large airtime spend towards TV advertising.


[Dashboard view of all the filtered demographic responses; the colour of the filter box for each demographic marries with the colour of the lines on the ‘Viewer Graph’]

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Sensum at the Vauxhall International 2013 North West 200

By Adam

In conjunction with BBC NI, Sensum was asked to provide a way of measuring the heart rate of 3 different riders (Alastair Seeley, Jeremy McWilliams and Gareth Keys) on different classes of bikes as they raced around the legendary North West 200 circuit. How would the three riders at different stages of their career react to the race? Would they be ice cold or would their internal signals show them to be a bundle of nerves? And what would happen if something outside of their control happened?


One of the fastest road races in the world, the North West 200 has been thrilling fans of motorsport for over 80 years. Otherwise known as ‘The Triangle’, the racecourse spans Portrush, Coleraine and Portstewart, with riders reaching 200mph due to the large straights on the track.

To be involved in such a competitive and dangerous sport takes a certain mindset - we wanted to get inside the mind of a rider who faces such pressure and danger. An outside analysis can only provide so much data; physiological data provides a fuller, truer picture.

The Technology

To measure the riders’ heart rates, we used a Polar T31 Heart Strap, which is a standard in sports research. This was placed under the riders’ protective gear. To record the data we used our Heart Rate Monitor unit (developed by Shimmer Research), which wirelessly captured the riders’ heart rates.


The sensor unit captured the beat interval from each participant’s heart every 100ms, which we then converted to a BPM average over 500ms. The sensor unit also contained an accelerometer, which we used to see how the gravitational pull affected each rider’s heart rate.



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Sensum Predicts Audience Vote at Mobile World Congress 2013

By Tracy Dempsey

Sensum co-creator Shane McCourt gave audiences a taste of the future at the world’s largest mobile industry conference in Barcelona last month. Shane was invited to present the Sensum audience insights platform to a 1,000-strong crowd at the “Back to the Future: Mobile Innovation 2023” conference session at Mobile World Congress 2013. During the session, six start-ups pitched for votes as the company having the greatest impact on the global mobile industry over the next ten years. Select audience members used the Sensum platform to measure their emotional response to the pitches to see which were truly winning hearts and minds.

Progress in the field of neuroscience has revealed that humans are essentially emotional decision-makers who rationalise decisions after the fact. Those of you who’ve been following our updates know that the Sensum platform captures that emotional response by measuring tiny changes in audience members’ sweat levels, using galvanic skin response (GSR) sensors worn on the fingers. The sensor units are paired with smartphones or tablets with the Sensum app installed, and the data is then uploaded to a cloud-based dashboard where visualisations show where audience attention peaked or dropped off.

As Shane said, “Mobile World Congress 2013 gave us a fantastic opportunity to carry out testing and increase exposure of the platform. Sensum’s innovative approach to audience testing at the “Back to the Future 2023” session revealed a much deeper understanding of the six company pitches, with the top the companies being Cortexica, Ensygnia and Mobungo. Wearable technology was hailed as a key step change going forward by Peggy Johnson, VP in Qualcomm, at the MWC13 session so it was perfect timing for us to show how we’ve incorporated that into a full mobile solution with a live demonstration.”

Michael O’Hara, Chief Marketing Officer of GSMA said “We’re pleased to have had Sensum present as part of our Mobile Innovation session at Mobile World Congress. The use of Sensum’s audience insights platform brought a new element to the session, truly allowing attendees to experience the technology first-hand.”

Helping Shane with the live demo was marketing expert in mobile, Norbert Sagnard, who said, “Since the body never lies, Sensum is bound to display true feelings every time, and without fail, Sensum matched the ‘show of hands’ audience vote on the pitches that day, emphasising its accuracy in assessing the real mood of a group of people”.

Introducing Sensum at their Connected TV spring briefings last year, Channel 4 called it “the most futuristic demo you’ll see today”. Now the futuristic is becoming more mainstream, as broadcasters, brands and media companies embrace wearable technology and affective computing to engage consumers and drive behavioural change. See how Sensum helps people do just that in these videos, which shows our select audience members’ changing engagement levels throughout Cortexica’s winning pitch and that of second-placed Ensygnia.

Runner-up Ensygnia’s CEO and co-founder Richard H. Harris added “It was great to get that immediate, emotional feedback on our presentation. The audience really seemed to ‘get it’ when I demonstrated the OneScan app; it was good to see that reflected and validated by the Sensum platform. It turned that gut reaction into a measurable, positive score”.

To find out more about how Sensum can help you improve your audience engagement, visit us at www.sensum.co.


Sensum Audience Testing Event: Be part of NI Tech History

By Tracy Dempsey

On Monday 25th February, the Sensum team will be at Northern Ireland Science Park giving people the chance to try our innovative emotional response platform as part of a mass audience testing event for a global market research organisation.

Recently featured in New Scientist, the Sensum mobile platform measures engagement with a piece of media via tiny changes in audiences’ sweat levels. Over the past year, we’ve presented Sensum at international tech and media events, and conducted ‘guerilla testing’ events with members of the NI public and workers in the tech and creative industries here. Game of Thrones cast and crew, Oscar winner Terry George, futurist Gerd Leonhard and Grammy Award winner Imogen Heap have all had a go with the Sensum platform. Sensum was shortlisted for the Smart UK Project 2013, being recognised as one of the top 20 innovative mobile companies in the UK, and has been selected to present at the “Back to the Future 2023″ event at Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona.

Now a global research organisation has expressed interest in our audience testing capabilities. To gather the necessary data for an A/B test, we’re inviting participants at our NISP-hosted event to test their engagement with ads from two titans of the tech world, to see which brand elicits the more emotional response from viewers.


The individual demos will run for about 5 minutes (4 at a time). Participants will be given a mobile phone and headphones and a pair of ‘Galvanic Skin Response’ sensors which they’ll wear on their fingers as they watch 2 short advertisements. The sensors will measure minute changes in sweat levels while they watch the ads; this data is then uploaded to a dashboard where a graphical visualisation will show at which points in the ads the audience were engaged or disengaged. Basic demographic info will be gathered via a short survey, however all responses are completely anonymous.

We’ve received fantastic support from the NI public, tech and creative communities since the beginning of our journey. Now that we’ve launched our beta platform and are attracting global interest, we’re hoping you’d like to be part of our success story. If you’d like to take part in the testing event, please send email us at info@sensum.co. As a thank-you for giving us your time, we’ll be raffling a £50 Amazon voucher, which will be awarded at 3pm with a round-up of the test session. We can also link to your site from event photos on our various social media sites, and include participant quotes and links in post-event press – we like to share the buzz!

You can see the Game of Thrones cast and crew having a go with Sensum – and their reaction – at http://sensumco.tumblr.com/post/32930883571/sensum-at-titancon-2012. You can also see photos from previous events (including our ‘Hall of Fame’ participants) at www.facebook.com/sensumco. We hope to show you the technology in person on the 25th!


Christmas ads - who won audience hearts and minds? The Sensum result

Christmas ads - love’ em or hate ‘em? In a light-hearted look at which supermarket brands were winning over audiences with their seasonal advertisements, we did some sample tests over the festive period. People across the UK put on our Sensum skin sensors and watched ads by ASDA, Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Sainsbury’s. We added some basic survey questions to the Sensum app to gauge participants’ feelings about the brands before and after watching the ad, to add context to the physiological data the sensors capture. 

Here are the results…


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