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Bringing new products to market

From left: Dipanjan Ghosh, Andrew Olewnik and Rei Yoshinaga are using sensors to correlate product use with consumer opinions. Photo: The Onion Studio.

by Jane Stoyle Welch

Published September 12, 2015

What if a consumer product could “observe itself” and report these observations back to a team of product designers?

That is the central question in an on-going research project that seeks to better measure consumer perceptions and customize products accordingly.

Called cyber-empathic design, the researchers are embedding sensors in a variety of everyday products such as shoes and office chairs. The sensors will be used to provide quantitative and efficient measures of consumer perceptions and how these opinions correspond to product features.

For example, this summer, volunteers at UB’s campus dining services are wearing shoes with a special insert that contains 13 sensors. The sensors monitor such things as foot dynamics, whether the subject walks on the outside of the foot, force of the impact of the foot striking the ground, temperature and other such factors in real-time. The sensor data will then be coupled with survey data and analyzed to inform the design of the shoe.

The results could impact the way that products are designed, tested and manufactured in the future.