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Brief Published: 15 Jan 2016

20th Century Fox Measures Audience Emotions

Physiological engagement with The Revenant

American film distributor 20th Century Fox has partnered with bioanalytics tech company Lightwave to analyse viewers' emotional engagement with its new feature The Revenant.

Lightwave's smart wristbands anonymously recorded test audiences' heart rate, blood volume pulse, movement, skin temperature and sweat-gland activity in real-time as they watched the movie. The company then compiled data points to create an emotional response timeline to reflect viewer engagement. "Through biometric data, we no longer need to rely solely on subjective and biased measurements to determine the impact that the content is having on the audience," said Lightwave CEO Rana June.

The impact of strong storytelling has implications beyond memorability. For instance, American neuroeconomist Paul Zak found that emotionally engaging stories increase viewers' generosity, making them more likely to donate money to strangers or charity while "under the influence" of an engaging story.

As a result, many brands are adding emotion tracking to their practices. London-based global media Agency MediaCom has partnered with UK company RealEyes, which tracks consumer reactions to video content using standard webcams, while a team from Brigham Young University in the US has developed software that can track emotional states through cursor movements.

Finally, Apple has just bought facial recognition tech company Emotient, as well as British start-up VocalIQ, which applies artificial intelligence to speech recognition and interpretation. As one of the leading global smartphone manufacturers, Apple's purchases position emotion tracking as a dominant direction for content targeting on personal devices.

See our coverage from Wired Retail 2015 and Reactive Retail for applications of emotion tracking in retail spaces. For more on contextual targeting, see Location-Based Marketing. The latest developments in mobile will be addressed in next week's State of Mobile: Winter 2016.