Ilya Tabakh

Ilya is a builder, innovator, researcher and student of human reaction. His current fascinations involve improving customer interactions with Somametric and computing football at Edge Up Sports.

How Did You Get Started With Emotion-Based Product Testing?

As all good stories start, I was making a movie with my friends. Bonus points if you can spot my cameo in the trailer.

► Green: The Motion Picture

They were exploring different ways to change the hollywood model, even naming their short lived company Break Hollywood Pictures. I was able to participate in making a full length feature that was filmed in 4K, which was impressive at the time. During the production I wondered how it might be possible to determine if the audience really likes a movie before the marketing budget was spent to place it in theaters and promote it. This question continues to fuel my curiosity with human reaction. A few years later I was able to refine this a bit with Somametric’s co-founder Jim West III. The initial concept of a distributed physiologically-based focus group was presented in the Gigabit Challenge and made it to the finals.

► Somametric, Gigabit Challenge Finale

You’ve Now Spread Into Other Areas Like Experience Mapping and Interactive Displays. Why the Shift?

When you start to dig into physiological reaction it becomes clear that context is important. So it was only natural to take a broader view to understand what the reaction means and how it can be utilized to maximize engagement. Often the practice of design does not allow for a tight coupling of a planned experience to actual interaction. This traditional separation started to change on the web where user experience practice has taken advantage of an unprecedented amount of data to react and improve based on how users were actually using sites. We are taking this integrated design delivery approach and moving it into the physical space. Technology and an evolving understanding of reaction via developments in cognitive science and related social sciences allow for much more interesting experiences and intentional improvement. That’s why I have focused my work through Somametric in three areas: maximizing engagement through interactive installations, measuring interaction in physical space by deploying a mix of tech and insights, and using experience mapping as a method for being intentional.


What Industries Have Been Most Receptive to This Expertise?

A wide variety of industries are interested in interactive installations to maximize engagement in the physical space. We have explored opportunities in hospitality, finance, retail, and a number of others. It seems that fewer industries have been interested in the process side of our work such as experience mapping. We have specifically received interest from healthcare and retail.

You Have a Handful of Projects Going at All Times, but the International Stories Is Particularly Interesting. Many of Us Are so Focused on Our Own City or Reaching a National Stage That We Forget About Everything Beyond It. Where Are You at With That Initiative?

The KC region is quite cosmopolitan and much more connected to the world than most people realize. This rich culture and global nature needs to be actively captured and used to build more bridges to the world. We have been connected to the world for a long time, for example the dedication of Liberty Memorial brought the leaders of the allied forces to KC in 1921. There are many interesting individuals that have come to KC and gone into the world to do great things. Unfortunately, a web search for KC international brings up quite a few links to the airport. We can do better!

The KC international stories initiative will build a digital home for KC’s international stories. This project will help to create a digital footprint that accurately reflects KC online for an international audience. Using first-person short video stories a connection can be made to inspire people to learn more about our fascinating region. Currently I’m engaging a variety of organizations and people to fill out a leadership team for what has to be a long play if KC intends to accelerate its momentum on the path toward global mindshare.


Go to Look at the plan. Share it with those interested. Sign up to stay updated. Most importantly if you share the vision reach out and let’s make it happen!

What Is Your Latest Epiphany?

I thoroughly believe in the William Gibson quote “The future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed.” In a world where we no longer ask ourselves “if we can compute something” but instead “what should we compute” the possibilities will be quite different. My work with human reaction continues to lead me toward the view that the businesses and the world of tomorrow will be guided by empathy and a deep understanding of people.

These are the insights I’ll continue using in Somametric and my latest project Edge Up Sports.


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