Monitoring the Engagement of Groups with Sensors

The PhD thesis of CWI PhD student Chen Wang of the Distributed and Interactive (DIS) group reports on research to design a GSR system that can support and enhance actors’ awareness of remote audiences in a distributed theatrical environment.

Publication date: 06-06-2018

We live in a society based on experiences. Whether we look at a commercial for a holiday destination or interact with social media, the consumer experience plays a crucial role in our behavior. Yet, it is surprising to see how little it is actually known about how consumers value these experiences. The high-end technical solutions for shaping experiences sharply contrast with the rather conventional mechanisms used to measure them.

The PhD thesis Monitoring the Engagement of Groups by Using Physiological Sensors of CWI PhD student Chen Wang of the Distributed and Interactive (DIS) group reports on research to design a GSR system that can support and enhance actors’ awareness of remote audiences in a distributed theatrical environment. At the early stage of this work, concentrated efforts were made to design and develop appropriate sensor hardware. This was done to find a practical way to construct relevant hardware that could be worn in a theatrical environment. Each hardware version was thouroughly tested in different user field studies. Then, related algorithms were developed to process the data delivered by the sensors. When enough knowledge was gained about the relationship between GSR patterns and audience engagement, the real-time algorithm and the feedback mechanism was developed so that remote audience engagement could be visualized.

The solution makes a technical contribution from both an engineering and a software design perspective in the creation of a system that allows theater stakeholders to explore the response data of an audience. This exploration has the potential to enhance the creative work of the theater stakeholders and to understand how audience members respond to their creative outputs. Although others have investigated audience response through the GSR systems, the deployment of a system of this scale in a live, large-scale theater setting is truly novel.

The work reported in Wang’s thesis covers eight research questions and resulted in nearly a dozen scientific publications, of which three were awarded best paper distinctions at major scientific conferences.

About DIS

The Distributed and Interactive Systems (DIS) group at CWI explores the use of smart textiles and wearable sensors as a source for collecting reliable and quantified data about everyday life experiences. One of the areas of interest is on better understanding the usage of these within the creative industries. Based on realistic testing grounds, collaborating with several commercial and academic partners, we have deployed our technology and infrastructure in places such as the National Theatre of China in Shanghai and the Amsterdam Dance Event in the Netherlands.

Chen defended her thesis on this topic on Wednesday 23 May at VU University (VU). She carried out her research at the Distributed and Interactive Systems (DIS) group at CWI, supervised by Dick Bulterman (promotor) and Pablo Cesar (co-promotor and head of the DIS group at CWI). The research was funded by the EU FP7 Vconcet project and PPS with Xinhuanet.

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