International consulting and solutions integration firm, Nihilent, has today opened its first user experience (UX) lab in Africa.

The lab, which is located in Bryanston, Johannesburg is only the second of its kind in the world. The UX lab was inaugurated by the minister of public enterprises, Pravin Gordhan.

The minister spoke about how government might be able to make use of UX development in the public sector.

“This sort of technology can play a useful role in developing countries. It could be used by government to understand how a housing project could cater to the needs of people,” the minister said adding that perhaps the UX might help develop a synergy between what government thinks and what citizens need.

So what exactly is a UX lab?

To explain it as simply as possible, it’s the modern equivalent of marketing surveys only a lot more insightful and highly reliant on technology.

As Nihilent executive vice chairman, LC Singh explained, “If you want to build brand affinity for either product or services, you need to give customers an experience, something memorable they can connect with and relate to. In a hyper-connected world, that’s your currency.”

What customers want and what businesses think customers want often differs wildly. This is where Nihilent says it can help.

The UX lab allows companies to examine how customers react to a product or service to get their genuine impressions.

Naturally, these customers must give their permission to be watched by companies as they interact with a product or service.

Should a person give permission however, Nihilent’s lab allows researchers to observe every interaction, facial expression and word uttered from a room called Cat Sense. We were told the room was named this because of the inquisitive nature of cats.

From this room researchers can monitor everything and even get a read out about the emotions a person is relaying through their face and body language.

The hope is that local SME’s make use of the lab to develop their products and services.

To find out more about the Nihilent’s UX lab, be sure to visit the official website.