Market researchers would love to read your mind as you sit in your home and watch on your PC or TV. With EmSense, they can do just that.
EmSense has come up with something called “quantitative neurometrics.” That means they give you a headband that senses your brain waves as you watch something and then they record the data for researchers. The hope is to reinvent behavioral research and get much better feedback about what works and what doesn’t.
The San Francisco company is launching its “in-home” research panel employing the EmBand monitoring technology today. It can measure positive or negative emotional responses to whatever you’re watching. It can also measure your cognitive engagement, or how much attention you’re paying, by measuring your brain-wave activity. It’s not that different from what Neurosky offers with its brain-wave monitoring technology for toys, but EmSense is focused on a different target market.
Keith Winter, chief executive of EmSense, said that the market research industry has long sought a way to measure emotional responses more accurately so that it can get precise reactions to advertising, creative concepts, packaging and the shopping experience. The advances in neuroscience and electronics have opened the door for this measurement with brain-wave monitoring and other bio-sensory metrics.
EmSense has partnered with market research companies such as Millward Brown and SymphonyIRI Group, which both do research online. But EmSense can also do more accurate, in-home field studies. The company recruits respondents who voluntarily share their information. (Yes, it’s a little creepy and it reminds me of the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange (pictured), but the difference is these test subjects are volunteers. Some people probably really do want to share their exact feelings about what they’re watching). After the user opts in twice, EmSense ships the user a kit with an EmBand wireless headset and a wireless receiver for use with his or her PC. The user is directed to a specific web page and offers their responses. In turn, the user is compensated for their time.
EmSense has 80 employees and it was founded in 2004. Rivals include NeuroFocus and Sands Research. To date, EmSense has tested more than 100,000 respondents in 25 countries. The company was founded by technologists from Hewlett-Packard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the company has applied for 40 patents.
EmSense raised $9 million in a third round of funding back in 2009 from Technology Partners and the Foundry Group.