Sunday, January 29, 2012

Emotional about biometrics ('cause you know sometimes words have two meanings)


Last October, I wrote a post entitled (empo-tymshft) When words change their meanings - an example from the biometric world. I could have applied the "empo-tymshft" label to this post also, but this particular post pretty much deals with the present day.

Part of my October post was devoted to "the use of biometrics for advertising evaluation by Ipsos." That quote was taken from a press release that discusses the work of Ipsos, a company, in a use of biometrics that differs from what I do day-to-day.

Ipsos has partnered with Boston-based Innerscope Research. Innerscope uses biometrics to understand the full scope of emotional reaction. Biometrics is a fascinating field that measures and analyzes our biological reactions (heart rate, skin conductance, respiration, movement) to decipher the emotional response to any stimulus.

"Biometrics is a branch of neuroscience that takes the measurement of emotions to a deeper level," said Indivar (Indy) Kushari, Senior Vice President, Ipsos ASI Toronto and presenter at the BCAMA event on October 27th.

As I noted in the original post, I hang with a crowd that uses the term "biometrics" in an entirely different fashion. Actually, this definition is a newer definition of the term:

[T]he term “Biometrics” has ... been used to refer to the emerging field of technology devoted to identification of individuals using biological traits, such as those based on retinal or iris scanning, fingerprints, or face recognition.

In other words, I don't care how you FEEL. I care who you ARE.

Well, I just ran across something in my feeds that appeared on the findBIOMETRICS website. Now findBIOMETRICS usually concentrates on identification, but they recently reprinted this press release from Time Warner. Excerpts:

Biometrics to Monitor Consumer Emotion at new Time Warner Neuromarketing Medialab - 26th January, 2012

Time Warner Inc. today announced the opening of a state of the art Medialab for research and development at its worldwide headquarters in New York City. The Time Warner Medialab has been designed to generate valuable insights into consumer behavior, evolving media habits and industry trends across all of Time Warner's businesses, brands and advertising partners....

The lab incorporates testing for consumer emotion through biometric monitoring devices that measure a participant's physiological responses to content. The center's virtual testing room is configured for eye-tracking studies that test the effectiveness of content and ads on PC/web, television and mobile devices. The lab also houses several large focus group and observation rooms, all equipped with the latest technical and mobile viewing devices.

Time Warner's premier partner in creating the Medialab was Ipsos MediaCT, a client-focused market research company that concentrates on analyzing consumer behavior. Ipsos MediaCT applied its specialization in understanding consumer behavior into the center's technology and research techniques.

As you can see, Time Warner's idea of a "biometric device" is a device that can track eye movements - for example, how the eyes react to an advertisement featuring Carrot Top. (In my case, the eyes would involuntarily close.) Certainly valuable, but again a little different than how I use the term.

Needless to say, I have shared this new press release with the private mailing list that told me about the October press release. Obviously I can't share the reactions that will occur - the mailing list is, after all, private - but I wonder if the participants will exhibit such emotional gestures as the rolling of eyes or deep sighs of discontent. And perhaps findBIOMETRICS will get a "why did you run THAT press release?" letter.

Now I realize that many of you are rolling your eyes at this whole thing, which sounds like a spat among practitioners of useless arts. But, as I noted at the beginning of my original post, this whole debate has wider applicability:

While we sometimes think of language as a static thing, it is in reality constantly changing. This is especially true for languages such as English that are widely used - my language is always incorporating terms from foreign languages, and is always inventing new terms - and new meanings for terms. If you don't believe me, take a time machine back to 2001 and ask Ashton Kutcher to tweet.

When using any type of terminology - ANY type of terminology - it's important to make sure that all parties are using the terms in the same way.
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