Feature Article

February 28, 2014

Mobile Video Consumers Like Video Better When the Sound is Good

For mobile users watching streaming video, it turns out that the audio track is a key component for user enjoyment and engagement. Overall, they prefer to “watch” video with their ears.

That’s the finding from a neurological research study released at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week that measured the brain activity and impulses of viewers watching mobile video. The researchers, from a firm called Neuro-Insight, found that audio delivered in Headphone:X generated a much bigger pleasure reaction than video.

“When we switched to enhanced audio, the patterns of brain activity seen were similar to those seen when we eat something we find enjoyable, hear a funny joke or, for that matter, anticipating the ‘high’ associated with an addictive drug said Pranav Yadav, CEO of Neuro-Insight. “Increasing the video quality did not achieve the same results or reactions.”

Image courtesy Shutterstock

“The results we saw were groundbreaking,” continued Yadav. “Audio is a key component of an audio-visual experience—mobile users simply liked the content a lot more with Headphone:X audio even when the video quality was not as high, as compared to seeing the same visual stimulus with higher quality video but ordinary audio.”

The study involved more than 100 men and women ages 18 to 35, all of whom were regular users of mobile phones and tablet PCs for mobile entertainment.

The group was shown four pieces of video content with quality adjustments made to audio and video components. Content was viewed on a tablet and the audio was delivered through standard earbuds. The sequence of video clips was varied across the group.

The viewers’ neuro-reactions were then analyzed using five different metrics:

Long-term memory encoding: A measure of how much the brain is remembering;

Engagement: A measure of content’s personal relevance;

The Hedonic Index: A measure that equates broadly to how likeable an experience is;

Emotional Intensity: The strength of any emotional response;

Attention: Measures how much visual attention is being paid to the content.

Overall, switching to enhanced, HD and/or surround-sound audio (in this case, using a technology called Headphone:X from DTS) from standard-quality audio generated an average increase of 42 percent in the Hedonic Index across all video qualities, demonstrating greater enjoyment of the content by the test subject.

Interestingly, the biggest increase in enjoyment came when enhanced audio was added to medium quality video—a 66 percent spike. Adding audio to low-quality video generated a 29 percent increase, while adding it to high-quality video added a 35 percent increase in enjoyment on the Hedonic Index.

In contrast, maintaining the audio quality and varying the video quality had very little impact—movements of less than one percent across the board. The impact of changes in video quality on tablets was statistically insignificant.

Neuro-Insight concluded that only enhanced audio made a significant statistical difference across any of the measures. The 42 percent increase in the Hedonic Index while experiencing content with enhanced audio is a result that’s significant at the 95 percent level.

Geir Skaaden, senior vice president for audio technology company DTS, which commissioned the research, said that the “Sound Matters” study contains a major lesson for the mobile operator and online video communities that could impact the way they manage and maximize precious bandwidth.

“Operators who re-balance their use of bandwidth to offer enhanced audio will not only save money, but they will also deliver an immediate improvement in the customer experience,” Skaaden said. “The study shows conclusively that streaming an audio track enhanced with Headphone:X alongside a standard definition video delivers increased enjoyment over even the highest quality—and bandwidth hungry—video,” he added.

Edited by Rory J. Thompson

FOLLOW MobilityTechzone

Subscribe to MobilityTechzone eNews

MobilityTechzone eNews delivers the latest news impacting technology in the Wireless industry each week. Sign up to receive FREE breaking news today!
FREE eNewsletter