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A new world of research

by James Needham

There are shades of Orwell in technology-enabled research, but the opportunities for brands are a fundamental shift from the status quo.

At this year’s CES electronics trade show in Las Vegas we saw the launch of intelligent video – a technology based on a decade of MIT research that gives context to the audience’s emotion in real-time.

Powered by Oovoo in partnership with Affectiva, the technology integrates into any app and allows researchers to non-intrusively measure emotions including joy, anger, sadness, disgust, surprise, fear, contempt and more.

There are shades of George Orwell’s “Big Brother” here but with the pacifier of an opt in button and subsequently, it’s taken no time to influence culture.

This is most evident in the 2016 US Election that is being curated by the Emotit for President app. Here, political content is viewed with intelligent video that scores your emotional response to everything you watch and compares you to the reactions of the entire nation.

Emotional data is the next frontier of AI but it also opens up a new world of possibilities for how we peel back the artificial layer of the research lab to find real time insights.

Now, every pixel and video frame can be analysed to provide a deep understanding of implicit human response and emotion. No more retrospective surveys or asking people to click their mouse faster if they feel an emotion more intensely.  These approaches are old world relics that are ready for the research scrap pile.

Intelligent video technology is leading the new vanguard of research, but it also fuses an age old truth most eloquently captured by revered poet and physician Professor Oliver Wendell Holmes, Snr.

“A moment's insight is sometimes worth a life's experience.”

That was over a century ago but Holmes’ words have never been more relevant than now.

Today’s world is flush with information but thin on insight.

Information is still critical - facts, stats and data points are the building blocks of targeted, effective strategy. It’s the ability to distil this information to reveal a human truth that’s never been more essential.

Insight is grounded in facts but inspired by human truth, it’s the story that gives the numbers life and meaning. But often misguided insight results in generic marketing or communications approaches and outmoded technology.

We’ve all been there.

We’ve all seen that fifty slide research deck that’s all show and no tell. What do I do with all this? What are the implications?

Research is too often used as a shield of validation rather than a weapon to unlock unique and compelling truths.

So in 2016, how do we demand and leverage better insights and discard superfluous information?

Professor Holmes gives us our first clue.

Powerful insight doesn’t live in the latest fad, trend or hashtag – it’s found in the behaviours and truths that have been hardwired into us since birth. The things that do not change.

Behavioural economics studies the psychological, social, cognitive and emotional factors that drive our decisions.  It’s the reason most of us choose the mid-priced wine on the menu, believe the weekend’s footy score was more predictable than it actually was, or swear our car drives better after it’s been washed.

These cognitive biases are constantly at play in our daily lives. They’re the hidden forces that nudge our actions and decisions without us knowing. These mental shortcuts are a window into the worlds of people. Once we can understand what forces drive the categories we work in, we can guide people towards the choices they inherently would make but may need a nudge to act on.

The second clue is what happens when behavioural bias forms a triumvirate with technology and data.

Innovations like facial recognition mean we can now cross-pollinate emotional data with supporting statistical sources and behavioural economics.

This combination can create 20/20 insight and unlock new realms of strategic and creative potential.

Emotional data might tell us people are angered by the protracted experience of our website. Google analytics confirms this in a high bounce rate but behavioural economics tells us we can transform the experience simply by breaking up the journey into bite size nuggets of information. Here, utilising our understanding of ‘Chunking’ not only improves the customer's experience of our brand, but also saves us thousands of wasted development hours.

Armed with the ‘now’ of real time insight and the ‘always’ of hard wired behavioural bias, we have the keys to the castle.

The third clue is the work of people like Genevieve Bell, an Australian anthropologist best known for her work at the intersection of cultural practice and technology development.

Bell has helped lead the charge at Intel, transforming their brand from a maker of computer chips to a human centric company who looks to consumer happiness as a starting point of product development.

“Our solutions need to be market inspired, experience driven and people centric. It’s too easy to fall down into a wombat hole.  Technology isn’t useful until people want to use it.”

Bell understands that “What makes us human is what is delightful”.

It’s the combination of technology, data and hard-wired human truths that has inspired the work we’re doing at CHE Proximity, evidenced by our work with behavioural economics, UX and our latest ethnographic research offering Black Mirror.

Black mirror is an Australian first rapid insights app that reduces the costs and lead times associated with traditional research.

It delivers ethnographic research at scale using user-generated video, photos and self-reporting to deliver greater accuracy, reach, speed and depth of insight from anyone with a smartphone.

Having an instant and continual window into people’s worlds as they live now allows us to better understand how to influence behaviour and drive a commercial return for our clients.

There’s never been a more exciting time to be involved in research and brand building.

Humanity is truly at our fingertips.

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