Podcast #7: The SCIENCE of language – Vitoria Piai

Our guest today is Dr. Vitoria Piai. Vitória is a senior researcher at the Donders Centre for Cognition and the Radboud University Medical Centre. 

Her research focuses on language function in healthy and neurological populations, such as stroke, brain tumor, epilepsy, and neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia or Parkinson’s.

She pays special attention to the intersection of language and other functions, such as executive control, (semantic) memory, and motor control in the case of speaking. 

She uses a bi-directional approach where she uses models from cognitive neuroscience to better understand language function in the neurological populations, while at the same time using observations of the breakdown of language in those populations as unique insights to improve the models from cognitive neuroscience.

For her work she has received multiple grants amongst which are the:

  • Rubicon
  • Dutch Veni grant
  • Junior Principal investigator premium  

Her awards range from getting the

  • Early Career Award 3x from 3 different research societies
  • Top reviewer award
  • The award for the “Top 10% of review contributions to the field of Psychology”

The list goes on and on. 

In this conversation we talk about the science of language. How does language work? What is language and how does it impact us every day? 

We discuss how language makes us uniquely human and where do the borders lie if there are any. We also talk about the overlaps of language and memory.

Show Notes

Reach out to Vitoria Piai at:

Vitoria’s personal website: http://vitoriapiai.ruhosting.nl/
Twitter: @vipiai
Email: v.piai@donders.ru.nl

Articles / Books:

Suggested Source (Dutch): https://www.nemokennislink.nl/

Videos / Movies / Documentaries:

Parkinson’s Patient cycling

Language aphasia due to stroke

Koko the Gorilla

Fastest talking man

Researchers mentioned:

Aldo Faisal – Twitter: @AnalogAldo
Simon Fischer – Twitter: @ProfSimonFisher

Podcast #6: The SCIENCE of sensory integration and transformation – Pieter Medendorp

Our guest today is Prof. Pieter Medendorp. Pieter is the head of the sensorimotor lab at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, where he is also the chair of Sensorimotor Neuroscience and the director of the Donders Centre for Cognition.

Pieter’s research interests focus on the relationship between brain and behavior, and in particular the neuro-computational coupling between perception and action.

For his work, he has received the 

  • Career Development Award from the Human Frontier Science Program
  • and Radboud Science Award

He was also awarded the

  • Dutch Vidi and Vici grants
  • as well as the European ERC consolidator grant

He is currently

  • board member of the Neural Control of Movement society
  • member of The Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives.
  • member of the editorial board of the Journal of Neurophysiology and serves as a review editor of the Journal of Neuroscience

In this conversation we talk about the science of sensory integration and transformation. Specifically, how these very fundamental processes impact us on a daily basis without us even realizing it. We discuss how our senses can fool us and how that experience can be fun. We also make links to industry and how forms of therapy and diagnosis can improve using these principles.

Show Notes

Reach out to Pieter Medendorp at:

Website: http://sensorimotorlab.com/

Twitter: @pmedendorp

Books / Articles:

Yuval Noah Harari – Homo Deus

Kandel, Schwartz, Jessel – Principles of Neural Science

Podcast #5: The SCIENCE of decision making – Alan Sanfey

Our guest today is Dr. Alan Sanfey. Alan is a Principal Investigator at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior.

Previously he has held positions as Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Arizona, and as a postdoctoral research fellow at Princeton University. 

He currently heads the Decision Neuroscience group at the Donders Institute, and his research uses a novel approach to the study of both individual and interactive decision-making by combining the methods of behavioral experiments, functional neuroimaging, and formal economic models. 

A further goal of his group is to use the knowledge gleaned from these studies to inform public policy debates.

In this conversation we talk about the science of decision making and how it could be used in industry. We discuss various aspects of decision making theory and how industry has tried to incorporate them and where things sometimes go wrong.

Show Notes

Reach out to Alan Sanfey at:

Website: alansanfey.com

Email: a.sanfey@donders.ru.nl

Society for Neuroeconomics: https://neuroeconomics.org/


Dan Ariely – TED Talk – Are we in control of our decisions? 

Frans de Waal – TED Talk excerpt – Monkey fairness experiment

Books / Articles:

Trust Game

Berg, J., Dickhaut, J., & McCabe, K. (1995). Trust, reciprocity, and social history. Games and economic behavior10(1), 122-142.


Ultimatum Game

Güth, W., Schmittberger, R., & Schwarze, B. (1982). An experimental analysis of ultimatum bargaining. Journal of economic behavior & organization3(4), 367-388.


Paul Glimcher, Ernst Fehr – Neuroeconomics

Daniel Kahneman – Thinking fast and slow

Robert Cialdini – Influence

Rober Cialdini – Pre-suasion

Dan Ariely – Predictably irrational

Richard Thaler, Cass Sunstein – Nudge

Podcast #4: The UX problems within Academia – Ian Cameron

Our guest today is Dr. Ian Cameron. Ian works at the exciting interface between academia, entrepreneurship, industry and society. He is driven towards the societal applications from neuroscience and psychological research, and brings management and entrepreneurial practices to academia.

He holds an MBA, where he wrote his management thesis about the alignment of culture, structure and strategy to achieve societal impact from research.

Before getting his MBA, he earned his PhD from Queen’s University, in Canada and did a postdoc at UC Berkeley. Both involved human neuroimaging and behavioural studies. 

Specifically, Ian specializes in cognition and sensory-motor control in movement disorders, making use of functional Magnetic Resonance imaging (fMRI), functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS), Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), and eye tracking techniques. 

As a researcher, he is interested in big-picture questions that connect neuroscience discoveries to clinical and societal applications. 

In this conversation we talk about the academic experience. We discuss various aspects, going from the ‘standard’ career path, to the transfer of knowledge into society, and all the way to the relationship of academia and industry. We try to discuss problems within the system and how business practices could potentially offer a fix.

Show Notes

Reach out to Ian Cameron at:

Twitter: @ian_gm_cameron

Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/iangmcameron

Books / Articles:

Eric Reiss – The lean startup

Eric Schmidt & Jonathan Rosenberg – How Google Works

Cameron & Quinn – The competing values framework

Podcast #3: The UX of cocktails and bars – Ivar de Lange

Our guest today is Ivar de Lange. Ivar is an award winning bartender and entrepreneur with a background in Medical Psychology.

In our conversation we talk about the cocktail and bar experience. How the industry is setup and where it could go. We also touch upon the impact Ivar’s medical psychology background had on his bartending career.

He also mentions specific questions he has for science.

Currently, he helps clients to design bars, menus, train staff and much more. He also works at Lucas Bols as the Global Education Manager and as Master Bartender.

For his bartending skills, he has been awarded 1st place at the 

  • Maker’s Mark Mixology Sessions
  • NBC National Championships
  • Rose’s Cup Netherlands
  • Diageo World Class Netherlands
  • Diageo World Class Western Europe Speed Round

He was also within the top 10 at:

  • IBA World Championships
  • Rose’s Cup Europe
  • Diageo World Class Global Finals

On top of that he also received the Golden Bow Tie Award for best bartender by the Dutch Hospitality and Spirit industry.

Show Notes

Reach out to Ivar de Lange at:

Website: ivardelange.com

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/erwin-de-boer-09b15358/


Cocktail (1988)

Podcast #2: The UX of sound design and branding – Erwin de Boer

Our guest in this episode is Erwin de Boer. Erwin is currently working as a marketing expert and has ample experience as a Sound brand designer. He also expanded his hands-on experience to video and photography.

He created sounds for many clients among which are Eindhoven Airport, Wave Kitchen Products, to 3d Audio for Virtual Reality applications for the company Zoll.

He kindly shares his industry experience and how different levels of sound branding are approached and implemented.

We also discuss opportunities to incorporate sound or music in different locations and scenarios to improve the experience. 

At the end he also reveals questions he has for science.

Show Notes

Reach out to Erwin de Boer at:

Websites: asyouwere.nl or boernmoes.nl

Instagram: @asyouwere.nl, his personal handle is: @boer1993

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/erwin-de-boer-09b15358/


How music works – David Byrne

Podcast #1: The UX of teaching entrepreneurship – Raphael Smals

Our guest in this episode is Dr. Raphael Smals. Raphael has had ample industry experience also as an entrepreneur himself. His career developed towards academia and by now teaching is a major part of his work.

We are talking a bit about Raphaels background and then move into the issues and opportunities with teaching entrepreneurship. We focus on different types of institutions, to asking if it is even possible to teach entrepreneurship, to skills that are important to have as an entrepreneur but are not taught.

I hope you have as much fun listening as I had having this great conversation.

Show Notes

Reach out to Raphael Smals at:

Personal website: www.rsmals.nl

Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/rsmals


INNOTEP: http://www.innotep.eu/


The lean startup – Eric Ries

Principles – Ray Dalio

The effective executive – Peter Drucker

Improve conversion rate with emotion tracking: the Coach example

Every webshop knows the problem of conversion rate optimization. How to improve conversion rate has been addressed many, many times all across the web with a lot of tips. At the end, they all boil down to one thing though, A/B testing your adjustments. One post had a list of 39 things you can adjust. My question to you is, when was the last time you ran 39 A/B tests?

Instead of just giving the standard, ‘do this and then that’ outline, I’ll tell you how we analysed the webshop of the popular fashion brand Coach. 

Coach reached out to us in July 2018 with the goal of improving the conversion rate of their webshop. Apparently they went through multiple A/B test scenarios and none of that was working well and was actually making them lose money.

The most important aspect for us was to ask the question, ‘what is it exactly that you’re after?’. Is it the conversion rate of one particular product that should be improved or something within the conversion funnel itself?

When it comes to conversion rate optimisation, a lot of variables can be tweaked. To narrow it down, it’s always important to ask yourself or your client these questions first.

The answer came quick: ‘We don’t know, we just want the conversion to go up’.

Ok, that was not very helpful, but our goal was to provide Coach with the biggest bang for their buck. Meaning, which changes would result in the highest return on investment (ROI) for Coach?

What did we do?

It is never a good idea to start testing anything blindly. To make sure we don’t take shots in the dark but rather deliver on their request, we asked Coach for their webshop analytics data.

Analytics data

When it comes to optimization, they understood that it’s good to start with data in the first place. They have provided us with analytics data of 1 week, having a total of 866130 visitors! Luckily that meant we got enough statistical power, even breaking it down into different landing pages would not be a problem. They also added that the percentages of conversions stay roughly constant with slight fluctuations in visitor rates. All these details matter when it comes down to how much we can rely on the data itself.

The bad apple

Going through the data, we started looking at the conversion rates based on landing pages. There was one landing page in particular that performed terribly. It was the landing page of the Dreamer handbag. 

The conversion rate itself that resulted from this landing page was 0.05%. Now you might be thinking that this type of conversion rate is not so bad, especially when you compare it to average search statistics across the web.

Let me add two more details:

  1. Other landing pages had on average 1.5% conversion rate
  2. 10% of the total traffic came in through this landing page

That basically means a lot of potential conversions are lost and advertising money is going down the drain. The next questions is, ‘why is the conversion rate so low compared to other pages?’.


The first, most obvious reason for this conversion rate could be the product itself. But is it? 

To find an answer to that question, we looked again at the analytics data. The answer was quite clear: the product is not the problem!

The Dreamer handbag itself was responsible for 7% of the total revenue. That is massive for a single product, given that other popular products on the Coach webshop accounted for 7.84% of revenue, combined.

Then what is it on that specific landing page?

As you most likely found on multiple other online articles, now it would be time to go through the list of conversion rate optimisation tips. Oh and don’t forget to finish your guessing with an A/B test.

Luckily, we don’t have to guess blindly. 


During our test, we exposed 100 testers to the Coach landing page of the Dreamer handbag. While the testers were viewing the landing page, we recorded their eye movements, their emotions and their hear rate through their webcam. We only showed the page for 10 seconds to really get the initial implicit reactions and viewing patterns.

This makes it much easier to understand what people are looking at and also how they process / react to it emotionally. From this, we can infer the ‘why’ much easier than guessing blindly.

Plus, we had all the data collected and analysed within 3 days. Generally quicker than preparing for all the A/B tests.


From the raw data, we create easy to interpret visualisations. For the eye tracking we get a heat map. Red = most attention, blue = least attention, no color = no attention received.

From this is it easy to see that the image within the webshop and the slogan on top receive the most attention.

Now that we know what received attention, let’s have a look at how that was processed. For that we combine all the emotions we measure (7 in total, you can have a look here) into an easy interpretable Valence score, which goes from -100 to +100. Negative score means negative emotion, positive score means positive emotion.

The Average Valence score for this landing page was -0.7. You might be thinking that is not so bad considering the range of the score. But you need to keep in mind that this is just a webshop that people are looking at and nothing controversial, which would much easier stir up emotions.

This is already quite telling but let’s dive in 1 step further. We combined the heat map and the Valence score into a Valence map. This makes it simple to see where exactly what type of emotion was present. This way we know what exactly people felt when they looked at something.

Conclusion and impact

From the Valence map you can easily see that the strongest negative peak is caused by the the slogan on the landing page. Looking back at the timeline of the Valence score, that peak comes at ~6 seconds. The image on the left of the products doesn’t get a lot of positive reactions either.

After we saw this reaction to the image, we looked at the other landing pages and only then we noticed that they don’t have an image nor a slogan.

There are now 2 potential routes you can go:

  1. Get rid of the image and the slogan
  2. Tweak image and slogan

If you’d go down route 1, then with a fair amount of confidence, given the analytics data of other landing pages, the product itself, and the data we collected, the conversion rate should go up. But how much?

It should get close to the average of the other landing pages (1.5%), but let’s be conservative and say it will only go up to 0.8%.

The Dreamer handbag costs ~ $700, with a conversion rate of 0.05% and ~93800 visitors that means around $33k. Coach is a strong brand but they do use online advertising. Because they are such a strong brand they could potentially pay only $0.1 per visitor coming to their website via advertising. That means then $9380 in online advertising costs. That results in revenue minus advertising costs = $23620.

Redoing this with a conversion rate of 0.08% would result in the same costs for advertising but final revenue minus advertising costs = ~ $43k. Oh and remember that this is per week!

As you can see, the impact itself is quite strong and we managed to deliver the biggest bang for their buck.

AI Expo Europe: experiences and preparation

Imagine you’re at work and all is going well. You’re working towards your goal and are making progress. All you want is to focus and get things done. Then out of the blue you get an email that offers you something for free. Yeah, right… When did that ever happen?

I still remember when it did happen to us. We got an email from Anna Fry, who was one of the organizers of the AI Expo Europe 2018 that took place at the RAI convention centre in Amsterdam.

They had a startup area and she offered us a startup stand, free of charge. I have been offered free things before, which shortly turned out not to be free at all (more on this in later posts). I was sceptical to put it mildly. But in the end it was not a joke or a sell. She genuinely wanted us to be part of the AI Expo 2018. We didn’t think twice about this opportunity and agreed.

I didn’t want to let this opportunity go to waste. It very often happens that people simply don’t value things that they get for free. Behavioural economics backs me up on this. I didn’t want us to fall into this trap. How could we avoid it? Preparation!


We’ve been to conferences before, that was nothing new. But at those conferences it was pretty clear what you should do and what you should get out of them. This was a business convention. What do you get out of this one?

That was the first question we needed to answer for ourselves. There are many aspects you can get out of an expo/convention. You most likely hear these standard phrases:

  • Exposure – often also called Brand Awareness
  • Recognition – often also called Brand Recognition
  • Feedback
  • Customers – acquisition/retention
  • Close look at the competition
  • Networking

The biggest focus for us was feedback and customer acquisition. Now that we have that clear, we don’t want to leave that up to chance. You can always go two distinct routes when it comes to customers or feedback:

  1. get a lot of people and have superficial interaction
  2. fewer people and deeper conversations.

Our goal was not to get a pad on the back and hear the ‘wow, that’s great’. We wanted input and new ideas from within the industry, which then means route 2. But who from within the industry?

The good thing is that all speakers are listed on the Expo website. That provides you with a good idea of who will be there, what they do and if their input could be useful.

No place for shame – you gotta go for it.

After filtering through all the speakers, we simply wrote an email to each to ask if they’d have time to drop by our stand. We could of course also meet anywhere else but people preferred to come to us.

Make sure that you are genuine in your email and it is not an obviously mass send email. People are generally very willing to help you, but not if they notice that you’re playing a numbers game.

Show and tell

Now that we took care of some of the traffic, we need to make sure that we have things to show and to give to visitors. I’d say this part falls into 4 categories:

  1. traffic magnet – getting attention
  2. interaction/engagement
  3. retention – make sure to be remembered
  4. tracking – keep track of actions taken

Traffic magnet

We have already some visitors that will come to us for a chat. But what about all the attendees that will come? To attract them, we need a traffic magnet. We simply took our laptops and had videos of cases we ran before on loop. The eye tracking heat map overlay onto a video is still super interesting and most people have not seen something like this before.

Interaction / Engagement

The good thing about the traffic magnet we chose was that you can use it immediately to start a conversation. Most people ask ‘what is that?’ and off you go!

To have even more engagement, we had a demo of our analysis service in combination with the ultimatum game prepared. The ultimatum game is a simple game where you have to interact with someone else. The crucial aspect is that you can predict the behaviour based on facial expressions. More on the game will follow in later posts.

If people wanted their results, they’d have to also give us their email address. This is a nice way to collect email addresses and have it part of a regular conversation that doesn’t feel like a standard sales pitch.

Retention / tracking

At the end of an interaction people generally exchange business cards. We prepared special business cards just for this event. It made that clear in the text we used. At the same time, we added a dedicated link on the card that you’d only know if you had the card. That allows us to track the performance online.

We also asked to take a picture of them holding our face analysis board. This also had to be prepared and took a lot of time. But keep in mind, you do it once well and you can use it more often.

At the expo

We were so lucky that we got upgraded to a real size stand. But the problem was now that it might look quite empty, as we were preparing for a startup size stand (half the size). We were promised 2 chairs and a table, when we got there we found a very flimsy table and no chairs. The booth looked very very empty. What do you do?

First, try the official route. There was a help desk to deal with issues like these. I went there, but guess what, it was super crowded there already. You have to ask yourself “where on the priority list will we be?”. Most likely not that high and it also has to go through so many ‘people in charge’ that it’s easy to be forgotten.

Steal a bench. Well, I mean borrow a bench.

Second, take matters into your own hands. Right around the corner of our booth were a few wooden benches. Nobody was sitting there, so we took one and placed it on the side of our booth. Looks cosy, doesn’t it?

Now is the time to shine. All the preparation work will pay off, but only if your behaviour and attitude are right. What do I mean by that?

There are plenty of subtle signals we send that turn people off, even before we had a chance to exchange words. Would you approach a stand where the person from the company is looking at the phone? NO!

Here are a few parts that we focused on to make sure we look easily approachable:

  1. Keep your phone in your pocket.
  2. Don’t sit down!
  3. You see someone looking, approach them and introduce yourself.
  4. Don’t stand behind a desk, be next to the desk.
  5. Put a smile on your face and mean it.
  6. You are already in a conversation and other people come by? Simply ask your current visitor if he/she would mind if you involved the new visitors. So far no one has ever said no to this.

The result

We had a lot of visitors coming to our stand, so many, that we periodically caused ‘traffic’. We have fully reached our goal and ended up with a lot of very valuable feedback and new customers. The greatest thing was that some visitors enjoyed the experience with us so much that they started advocating for us and brought new people to our stand.

Post expo & lessons learned

After the expo ended, we took the weekend to rest. It was a lot of work but it did pay off as we reached the goals we’ve set for ourselves. Now it is time to process all the collected emails, phone numbers, contact information and make sure to act on it!

Also here is no place for shame. People gave you their card, that means they won’t be too surprised if you reached out. They might have had a great experience at our stand but make no mistake, you need to be the one to keep the connection. That goes for new customers that expressed strong interest during the expo but also for visitors you got a lot of good feedback from.

Saying ‘thank you’ matters.

The biggest lesson for us was that the demo needs to be better. Some people really enjoyed playing it, but because we had so many visitors we didn’t have the time to show it to more people. For next time we need to have a demo prepared that is part of the traffic magnet itself!

Oh and if you were wondering how other stands looked like, you can check them out here.

Other stands