Multimodal Experiment

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To get in touch with the basic psychological phenomena which affect a multimodal environment two quite simple AD rooms were designed. Both a relaxing and a stimulating atmosphere were created by adjusting five  parameters: materials, colour illumination, music and furniture colour and material.
The goal of this experiment was to find out the way participants reflected upon their experience of being in a designed room. These reflections were collected in a qualitative method and analyzed according to a holistic approach in order to better understand the experiential process.
The relaxing room

In the relaxing room the seat was upholstered with a synthetic, even and flat fabric. The color of the seat was a light turquoise. The room was illuminated by using only blue fluorescent tubes in the luminaries. The  illumination of the room was measured at two different spots: through the divider material (30 lux) and from above the seat (15 lux). The music played in the relaxing condition was Brian Eno’s Ikebukuro.

The stimulating room

In the stimulating room an identical round seat was used. However, the upholstery was a bright and structured red cotton. A piece of the same kind of bright and structured red cotton fabric was placed on the floor between the seat and the mirror as a mat. The illumination in the stimulating room was created by mixing red, white and blue tubes.  The illumination provided through the divider material was 135 lux and above the seat 70 lux. The music in the stimulating condition was Lindsay Buckland’s Trans Amazonian Highway.

Participants and procedure

Twentyone participants (10 females and 11 males) were gathered from the various student mailing lists within the Helsinki University of Technology. In the actual test situation the participants were asked to sit down in the room and fill in a stress monitor questionnaire.


The participants in the relaxing room perceived their environment in an integrated way. They also paid attention to characteristics that were more of a combination of different stimuli than individual stimuli. For instance softness was often described as a result of materials, illumination and music. The participants perceived the music as being the most noticeable perceptual modality in the room.

In the stimulating room the perceptual descriptions and the focus of the participants’ attention were more concentrated on individual descriptions of a few stimuli. These stimuli were materials such as, the divider, illumination, the overall simplicity of the design and colors. The participants in the stimulating room perceived the music as being the most noticeable perceptual modality. Also colours, materials and the space divider drew their attention.

The laboratory conditions with surveillance systems, used in this experiment, could be more useful in other research paths, which could also be beneficial for the development of AMDE. The hybrid method should be applied to gain more knowledge concerning single modalities, e.g. sound, luminance, colours, materials and their interaction in more strictly determined environments.

Brain Activity Mapping

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Plug in application for the Emotiv headset displays a real-time map of your mental activity in four significant brainwave frequency bands. These are:

Delta (0.5-4Hz)
– indicating deep sleep, restfulness, and conversely excitement or agitation when delta waves are suppressed

Theta (4-8Hz) – indicating deep meditative states, daydreaming and automatic tasks

Alpha (8-15Hz) – indicating relaxed alertness, restful and meditative states

Beta (15-30Hz) – indicating wakefulness, alertness, mental engagement and conscious processing of information

Comfort Assessment

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Pioneering work in the field of thermal comfort by Bedford (1936) and then Humphrey (1975) suggested the phenomenon of ‘adaptation’. It suggested that when given the opportunity to choose, people have the ability to adapt over very wide ranges of thermal environments.
The adaptive opportunity theory suggests that the threshold of discomfort relates to the extent to which users can adapt to changing environmental conditions by behavioural adjustments, acclimatization and expectation. Occupants accepts a greater variably in natural phenomenon than in artificial environmental systems.

Comfort Analysis Method

Baker devised a ‘Portable Array for the Measurement of Physical Ambience’s’ PAMPA  that subjectively evaluates ambient measurements. It is worn on the head of the user and therefore is non obstructive and non invasive of the occupants space. The device measures:
  • Ambient Temperature
  • Radiant Temperature
  • Relative Humidity
  • Air Movement
  • Illuminance Levels
  • Noise Level
  • Air Quality

The ’PAMPA’ allows data recording during a maximum time of 12 hours at 10 second intervals.

Personalised Targeting for Shoppers

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New advertising techniques are using facial recognition software to identify a shopper’s gender (with 85-90% accuracy), ethnicity and approximate age. With obvious attractions for marketers, they can then be targeted with ads for appropriate products – perfumes for women, for example.

Tokyo are also producing camera-equipped vending machines that suggest drinks to consumers according to their age and gender. Weather conditions and the temperature are taken into account too.


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Ethnography is often employed for gathering empirical data on human societies/cultures. Data collection is often done through participant observation, interviews, questionnaires, and now in the digital era new sensor collecting devices.

Ethnographic studies are holistic, founded on the idea that humans are best understood in the fullest possible context, including: the place where they live, energy consumption, career, customs etc.

Virtual Ethnography & Netnography & Digital Ethnography

This refers to a number of related online research methods that adapt ethnography to the study of the communities and cultures created through computer-mediated social interaction. Prominent among these ethnographic approaches are “virtual ethnography”  and “netnography”.

  • Netnography

The term netnography has gained currency within the field of consumer research to refer to ethnographic research conducted on the Internet. In a netnography, data takes two forms: data that the researcher directly copies from the computer-mediated communications of online community members, and data that the researcher inscribes. Reflective fieldnotes, in which ethnographers record their observations, are a time-tested and recommended method in netnography.

  • Virtual Ethnography
Virtual ethnography involves using a different set of tools for the collection of data from a traditional ethnography. While an anthropological ethnography that occurs “in real life” is conducted to detail the experiences of people in specific cultural milieu, virtual ethnography can utilise a number of computer-based methods of data collection in order to collect the data that can be used in the construction of the ethnographic profile of a community.
  • Digital Ethnography

There has been considerable research on the social aspects of digital communication, online consumption, and the Web as a social phenomenon. Social scientists however, have paid less attention to the opportunities presented by digital technology for understanding the lives of users and consumers.

EEG Machine and IBVA Visualiser

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Electroencephalography (EEG) is the recording of electrical activity along the scalp produced by the firing of neurons within the brain, recorded from multiple electrodes placed on the body. The IBVA ‘Interactive Brainwave Visual Analyser’ visually interprets the electrical activity within the brain and graphically presents it on a computer interface. It is an electronic mirror for the mind, essential to record and then allow analysis of brainwaves for creative Neurofeedback. EEG machines can be used to monitor electrical brain wave data of arousal, relaxation and alertness. Fragrance manufacturers have for many years been trying to demonstrate that certain smells are relaxing, this could be proven with the EEG machine.

FMRI Scanning

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Functional magnetic resonance imaging, works by detecting the changes in blood flow. FMRI can be used to produce activation maps showing which parts of the brain are involved in a particular mental process. This is where the difference lies between MRI and FMRI scanning, that the neural response can be measured in real-time in relation to bodily movement and stimulation. This is what application is useful when analysing perception of space. We can map what unconscious waves are being stimulated in particular areas of ambience. (see Brain Mapping)

Eye Movement Tracking Displays

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In daily life humans move their eyes naturally and unconsciously to get visual information, through the eye movements are hardly noticed. SEE++ is a high performance computer program that makes it possible to simulate our eyes complex sequences of movements.

    Marshall McLuhan Tetrad of Media Effects

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    We can use the Tetrad of Media Effects (McLuhan 1988) as a model for analysing the impacts of the implementation of a technology. There are parameters that the implementation has to adhere to in order to achieve a successful integration into the design or peoples behaviours. There are benefits and hindrances, advantages and disadvantages of all medium and this is what the tetrad analyses. It is especially useful to highlight the uses but potential dangers of the implementation of a technology that is too far removed from our intuitive actions or norms. The tetrad analyses what it enhances, which it obsolesces, what it pushes forward and what it pushes back. The laws of the tetrad exist simultaneously, not successively or in linear form. We are thus encouraged to think how outputs are in a constant state of flux in relation to each other, allowing an analysis of intermittent effects. A strong argument is needed to make sure this balanced approach is implemented no matter what the brief, what the space and what new technologies are inevitable to be introduced.

    Philips Home Lab

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    Philips has long been researching the benefits of ambient technologies. They have created a research labatory that mimics a real home and provides Phillips with user centred evaluation of the success of its new products, including smart home technologies. Phillips is only too aware that no matter how advanced its technology and how exciting the scenarios in which it is used, people will not accept it if they do not trust it. Trust comes from familiarity, which gives designers a clue to constructing design realities not too far removed from the function of its ‘trusted’ products.

    Phillips Home Lab has two observation rooms which in combination with 34 cameras, distributed over the house and controlled by the Home Lab control system, provide the right infrastructure for doing observations of the user behaviours when interacting with Philips products or integrated technologies.

    MRI scanners inspire brainwave music

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    Mira Calix (artist composer) examines the emotional experience of having your brain scanned. She has put together a piece with the help of a string quartet which uses the sounds emitted by the scanner as a basis for music.  The project has been assisted by cognitive neuroscientist Prof. Vincent Walsh, who is the official Scientist in Residence at the Royal Academy of Music. He mentors the artists and offers a scientific perspective on the work.

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