October 24, 2019 The BMS lab

Usability studies

A logical methodology within the domain of Human Machine Interaction is the Usability type study. Perhaps even more so in the area of Ergonomics. This type of study allows for a systematic evaluation of a design, app or product to spot possible strengths and improvements in the design. More importantly, it allows for the evaluation of how participants use a product and where the designer or producer can support the user. Within usability studies it’s common to use physiological measurements like heart-rate and skin conductance (stress) and eye-tracking. This allows for a full picture of how the participants interacts with the machine and how they feel.


The BMS lab has several forms of eye-tracking available. They do as the name suggests and track eye movement, gaze and stare. This means researchers can accurately follow reading and viewing patterns and answer questions related to visual stimuli. Both a version of the Tobii eye-tracker exists that can be easily attached to any screen (combine this with a screen capture device) or one that can be worn as a set of glasses. The latter allows for a wider use and even without the need of a screen, but is as a result more complex to analyze.

Physiological measurements

Physiological measurements are a very powerful tool for social scientists. They allow for both the replacement and supplementation of the more traditional questionnaires by more other measurements, for example of excitement, heart-rate, stress and emotional state. Within the BMS lab, the shimmer skin conductance sensors and E4 Empatica watches are often used for this purpose. The latter is also usable as a fitness and movement tracker. Physiological measurements can aid in explaining observations and the classical self-reported measurements by providing an objective measurement to which they can be compared and related. A video or application that is reported to cause stress can be further analyzed by identifying where a participant’s heart-rate rises or their skin conductance increases.