Unraveling human technology experiences


Our world is ever-digitizing. A ceaseless stream of technological advancements is shifting the way we interact with technology--and with one another. We face wave upon wave of smart (phygital) products, leading to a myriad of interactions with devices and other users, but also with a broad diversity of content, contexts and platforms. Human-computer interactions become increasingly complicated as many things are happening at the same time outside of the user’s control. As a result, product and service designers embrace the concept of user experience to be their North Star, collectively pivoting to a user-centric approach. 

We too, believe the user is key--an adage we adhere to in both our applied and our fundamental research tracks. To shape and guide a truly user-centric design process for future products and services, we need new tools and methods to unravel these interactions and their determinants. Our weapon of choice, the EMU Lab harnesses the power of immersive media (VR, AR & MR) to simulate and assess the user experience on different levels and in different contexts, through a range of subjective and objective measurements. Conversely, the use of such platforms yields new opportunities to study fundamental research questions, as they facilitate the setup of ecologically valid yet rigorously controlled lab experiments. 


Our goal is to unravel the interactions between humans and technology, or between humans through technology, in order to shape more natural and positive experiences.

Embracing emerging technologies such as extended reality (XR), we build interactive scenarios ranging from basic sensorial experiences (e.g., turning a virtual knob in mid-air) to higher-order cognitive or emotional experiences (e.g., following assembly instructions in human-robot collaboration work cell). Through a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods, we strive to gain deeper understanding in the interactions humans experience through technological interfaces. Our methodological arsenal ranges from in-depth interviews and co-creation sessions, to detailed and time-accurate analyses of objective and/or physiological sensor data. In the latter category, specifically, we can draw on the potential of XR technologies and use built-in eye tracking of HMDs, as well as motion tracking and electrophysiological-measured human arousal responses.

We work in an interdisciplinary, exploratory, and iterative way, combining fundamental science in psychology and engineering with a hands-on MacGyver approach. Imagination is the key to foster innovation, this allows us to gain new insights in relevant topics. Via dedicated pop-up labs using our Swiss army knife of tools and methods, we have the ambition to conduct more meaningful research in a creative, experimental way on the crossroad of science, technology, and design.

Research pillars  

At imec-mict-UGent, we: 

  1. Unravel interactions between humans and technology via simulations of interactive scenarios (e.g Experience DNA) 
  2. Design future (shifting) interfaces via iterative research through design 
  3. Detect human behavior through physiological data interpretations (e.g. attention, cognitive load, emotions) 
  4. Detect life-style patterns and self-perceived behavior by developing and testing psychometric properties of scales