Does your music move your fans? Find out with Sensum wearable technology
Tolstoy once said “Music is the shorthand of emotion”. When a musician creates music, they’re aiming to engage the listener in some way; to move them emotionally. When it comes to marketing their music, a fundamental decision that can greatly impact an artist’s success is in selecting the most impactful tracks for a singles or other marketing campaign. Now a leading-edge new mobile platform is poised to revolutionise that decision-making process by augmenting traditional feedback methods with wearable technology, a mobile app and a cloud-based dashboard. Sensum co-creator Gawain Morrison explains:
Some music makes you smile, some music makes you cry, some music makes every hair on your body stand on end with excitement. Sensum is an emotional response mobile platform which measures your body’s responses to any piece of music you listen to, or film you watch, and converts this data into visualisations for users to make sense of what is happening as they watch or listen to something.
I’m currently working with Sensum on some of their events and press, and am getting a great, hands-on education in physiological response technology. For the recent launch of the new Muse album The 2nd Law, we hosted an interactive listening party to showcase the Sensum platform. Fans, music and tech journalists gathered in Belfast creative industries hub the Oh Yeah Centre, to watch visualisations of their emotional responses to individual tracks as they listened. The Sensum platform uses non-intrusive galvanic skin response (GSR) sensors paired with a smartphone with the Sensum app installed, to measure an audience member’s sweat levels during their audiovisual experience. The smartphone then uploads the data to the Sensum website. For the Muse listening event, the GSR signals dynamically created a moving graph of the listener’s engagement over the duration of each track, showing peaks and troughs of engagement and providing a fascinating insight into the way we experience music. My musician and composer partner, Conor, had this to say about the experience:
The possibilities that this new technology presents to the realm of music listening, song-writing and contemporary composition techniques are astounding and exciting. To gain a deeper insight into the reactions of a listener is something that many artists – myself included – will crave more and more in the future, as the connection between music maker and fan becomes even closer and ever more personal.
Of course, it doesn’t stop with the audio; the Sensum platform can also be used to test emotional engagement with video – the video for the song itself, or perhaps even interview or behind-the-scenes footage. The Sensum mobile platform has massive potential applications in the entertainment and other industries, extending well beyond research capabilities. With gamification being an ever-increasing feature of entertainment products – think Nine Inch Nails’ “Year Zero” – Sensum offers new ways to reward fans for their attention, and reward creators with the ability to engage with fans on a truly emotional level. An individual’s physiological response to a piece of entertainment could, for example, unlock tailored, bonus content. Or perhaps the fan’s response could alter the music or film itself? Pioneering musicians such as NIN and Imogen Heap are using crowd-sourcing to allow fans a say in the creative process itself, and are using numerous platforms to engage and interact with them. With the entertainment industry’s focus on developing multi-platform, immersive experiences across multiple devices, the Sensum platform can use the real-time, physiological reactions of an audience to change the entertainment being experienced. At SXSW last year, Morrison debuted an interactive short horror film Unsound, which responded to the audience’s emotional engagement – as measured by their GSR and pulse rate – by changing soundscapes and ￼￼￼ camera angles to intensify the experience. (Read more in this New Scientist feature on Unsound/Sensum.) In a new era of increasingly personalised entertainment and shrinking distances between artists and their fans, Sensum’s pioneering technology is opening up worlds of possibilities.
For an update on Sensum’s work, see my post on music tech trends for 2014/2015.