Hollywood is tracking heart pounding movie scenes with wearable tech

Audiences at The Revenant test screenings were kitted out with smart bands
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20th Century Fox has kitted out a test audience of its latest Oscar baiting, Leonardo DiCaprio starring "pain porn" movie The Revenant with heart rate tracking wearable tech to monitor their emotions.

According to Lightwave, which provided the biometric analysis, the heart rate, skin moisture and movement data captured by sensor packed wristbands indicated:

  • 4,716 seconds in which the audience was "rendered motionless" - Fox describes this as a sign that viewers were on the edge of their seats but from the mixed reviews, this could well have been boredom
  • 15 "heart-pounding" moments in which the 100 or so cinema goers had raised heart rates. Spoiler alert: these included an attack, a betrayal, an escape and some revenge.
  • 14 flight or fight responses
  • 9 startling moments

Hollywood is tracking heart pounding movie scenes with wearable tech

Lightwave was able to combine all the readings to provide an overall graph of emotional intensity throughout The Revenant. So a highly intense scene resulted in changes in heart rate, less motion and increased skin conductance. The wearable tech tests were done when the movie was already completed and 20th Century Fox plans to use the data for targeted marketing (shudder).

That said, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the film's director whose previous work includes Birdman and Babel, was shown the data. So it's not too much of a stretch to think that emotion tracking could influence future editing decisions in Hollywood.

Essential reading: The real world wrist-based heart rate monitor test

This kind of testing isn't new but it's not often a high profile movie like The Revenant is involved. Lightwave has analysed audience emotions at Cannes Film Festival and SXSW before as well as working with Jaguar to monitor the heart rate of Wimbledon fans last summer, showing that - biometrically at least - a Centre Court is more exciting than a rollercoaster.

Wareable has plans to see this movie ASAP so we'll try to remember to wear a heart rate monitoring device on the night, if anyone's interested in our stats.

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Sophie was Wareable's associate editor. She joined the team from Stuff magazine where she was an in-house reviewer. For three and a half years, she tested every smartphone, tablet, and robot vacuum that mattered. 

A fan of thoughtful design, innovative apps, and that Spike Jonze film, she is currently wondering how many fitness tracker reviews it will take to get her fit. Current bet: 19.

Sophie has also written for a host of sites, including Metro, the Evening Standard, the Times, the Telegraph, Little White Lies, the Press Association and the Debrief.

She now works for Wired.

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