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Espresso of Innovation: Mind Reader

By Martin Talks, president digital, Draftfcb UK
Hello and welcome to this week's Espresso of Innovation; the hottest news and strongest stories from the world of creativity and technology filtered into a quick shot of inspiration. This week we’re going insane in your membrane.
In recent years, we have come to understand a lot more about how we all make decisions. Given that 95% of decision making is unconscious, how do we know what is going on in people's heads and plan our marketing accordingly? It would seem nonsensical to use our limited conscious minds to make sense of it all. It is time for technology to step forward. But how good are the available technologies and where might they be going?
FMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is an MRI procedure that measures brain activity by detecting associated changes in blood flow. A limitation to this technology is that lying in a dark tube in a medical facility is not ideal for accurate emotional reactions or indicative of real-life situations. However, amongst other interesting studies, the Pepsi Challenge wasfamously replicated in an FMRI scanner using long straws.
So how about a portable device?EEG (Electroencephalography) uses a skullcap of up to 256 electrodes to measure electrical spikes in brain activity. While the EEG can be used for indicative observations, unfortunately for neuromarketers, the brain areas most responsible for emotions (the amygdala and the insular) and forming memories (the hippocampus) reside in deeper structures that the skullcap can’t measure. However, it does give indicative information about which brain areas are being used and, as mentioned, it is portable and more affordable. For example,InteraXon has created a brainwave-sensing headband that sends information to your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth. I own anEmotiv headset that uses an EEG electrodes to allow you to control an online game with thought – rather than keys, joystick or gesture – and indicates emotions by changing the screen colour depending on the levels of joy and frustration.
There are new methods emerging.Affectiva, the MIT spin-out, offers the potential of mass emotional online testing by recognizing facial expressions via a standard webcam. In-situ tracking technologies are also improving, such as retinal tracking as carried out by Betfair at theCheltenham Festival.  And finally, there is now hope we will be able to read ourcreative teams' minds.
So overall, it would seem we have quite a long way to go before minds are being read by marketers. However, there are signs of significant progress: recently arat-to-rat experiment showed that telepathy might not be so far off. So if advertisers want to harness a new understanding of the ways consumers make instinctual decisions, they need to stay close to the latest technology developments. And of course, you can read all about those here!