How Experience Lab came about
How come that one of the world’s most advanced laboratories for measuring user experience was created at Åbo Akademi University in Vaasa of all places?
Experience Lab originates from the journalism training that began at Åbo Akademi University in Vaasa in the early 1990s. From very early on, we realized that the media industry was becoming increasingly digitalized and that this meant that it would develop in a more interactive direction.
But how could this insight be utilized when there was no research data on the subject, nor any ready-to-use technical means to measure user experiences? To fill the data gaps, we decided to develop our very own laboratory. This required close cooperation with companies supplying measuring equipment to ensure that our eye-tracking cameras and EEG devices were truly measuring the right things.
The first version of the laboratory was introduced right at the beginning of the new millennium. At the same time, we became a separate entity within the university called Mediacity. At that time, we did a lot of television production. After that ended, we started to call ourselves Experience Lab.
Over the years, the laboratory has seen many developments and also partially changed its direction. However, measuring user experience is still at the core of all our activities. At one time, we were testing a large portion of all new Finnish movies to discover how the audience perceived them. Today, most of our time is spent on various research projects.
Since we were created within a university, our work has been strongly based on science from the very beginning. However, we never became stuck within only one scientific discipline – on the contrary, we have pioneered the practice of combining a variety of disciplines, from neuropsychology to data processing.
From the very beginning, we have also been working in close cooperation with industry, selling our services to outside parties. In fact, the university has required this from the start, so that it could afford to finance all of our advanced equipment.