Thursday, May 5, 2011

Marketing Gadget Tracks Brainwaves As You Watch TV

Daniel La Ponsie
20 April, 2011

Instead of taking surveys online, marketing research now uses a mind-reading headband. The device is designed by San Francisco firm EmSense; it can sense your brainwaves as you have reactions to watching something and then record the data for researchers.

The process of measuring your reaction to something is known as ‘quantitative neurometrics’ and it can be carried out as you watch a computer or television screen. Old fashioned research have become viewed as expensive and difficult, involving a lot of time and man-hours. It also could be inaccurate, as what someone says they feel while watching a commercial, and how one truly reacts while watching a commercial can be two separate things.

EmSense is using modern technology to change all that. The EmBand works efficiently by detecting people’s positive or negative emotional response to a product or campaign and immediately sending that information to its clients in real time. According to The Escapist, Emsense said that more than 2,000 households have volunteered to receive EmBands and the company expects 25,000 more by the end of 2011.

“The market research industry has long sought a solution to measure positive or negative emotion and consumer engagement in all forms of marketing stimuli, spanning advertising, packaging, creative concepts and the shopper experience,” said Keith Winter, president and CEO of EmSense Corporation. “Advances in neuroscience and electronics technology have opened the door to reliable measurement using EEG and other bio-sensory metrics.”

Not only can the EmBand read your thoughts, but it also has accelerometers to track head movement which test distraction levels of respondents. This provides added data on whether or not someone is paying attention to the almighty glowing box or not.

While this device is clearly efficient, which translates into money savings and accuracy in data collection, it also is being viewed as a little creepy. The words “clockwork orange” have been tossed into at least a few news articles already.

For me, commercial culture doesn’t bother me at all. If private companies want to find a more efficient way to not waste my time with crap I am not interested in — that’s friggin’ fantastic. What does bother me, though, is what groups within the government would do with this sort of technology. No doubt, the government is paying attention. Hell, maybe EmSense is even working off a grant from Uncle Sam.

Could this technology evolve from measuring brain activity into re-wiring how the brain works? DARPA is already working on mind-controlling devices, including “thought helmets” for members of the armed forces.

So, ya, this technology is frightening … when in the wrong hands.

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