What is Biometrics?

By Samantha Silver

Biometrics is the technical term to describe being able to measure body movements and calculations. It operates under the idea that each individual is unique and can ultimately be measured based on their specific movements and behaviors. But what is biometrics? What are the benefits of using this new method of research?

woman wearing biometrics

What is Biometrics?

  • Participants are connected to sensors which measure and record their physiological reactions to the tasks as they perform them, by tracking the following measurements:
    • Facial EMG - facial muscle movement provides insight into emotional responses
    • Skin conductance - Galvanic skin responses (GSR) measures emotional stimulation associated with pleasure, displeasure, and anxiety
    • Heart rate - Electrocardiography (ECG) tracks the heart’s response to stimuli
    • Eye tracking - Monitors where a participant’s eyes travel to determine elements they focused on, what they saw, and time spent on particular areas

Biometrics can be used to measure concepts such as:

  • Emotional reaction
  • Conscious Processing
  • Instinct
  • Habit
  • “Gut feeling”
  • Rational thoughts & memory
  • Biased by other factors
  • Context based
  • Self-aware

Why Biometrics?

  • By capturing physiological real-time reactions, it helps validate self-reported and observed data by revealing:
    • How participants feel during tasks
    • Any levels of confusion, frustrations, and anxiousness
    • How their gaze travels across the page and what they notice
  • Using biometrics can help to avoid biases
    • People pleasers are uncovered
    • Capture micro-expressions that would not be necessarily observed by a non-expert

Aspects of Biometrics:

Limitations:

  • Data is not processed immediately so interpretation of live data should be directional only. Post processing is required in order to make recommendations.
  • Due to network capabilities, live streaming from remote areas is not always guaranteed.

What Is Possible:

  • Real time view of biometric data being collected - if co-located (ie. not remote streaming)
    • Measures are selected ahead of time  
    • These measures are selected ahead of time based specifically on the research goals and questions agreed upon with the client
  • Real time tagging – researcher can tag digitally instants to come back to (micro moments, quotes)

 

READ MORE: Do's and Don'ts for using Biometrics in your UX Research Projects, How Biometrics Help Designers Design Better, Biometrics & Recruiting: What Questions to Add to a Screener?, What to Consider When Desigining a Biometric Study, Things to be Mindful of When Desiging Your First Set of Biometric Studies

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