Would You Wear A Brainwave-Sensing Headband?


EmSense Emband wearers

The fact that brainwave-sensing headbands exist isn’t the strange part — rather, it’s the fact that marketers want you to wear them to measure ad effectiveness.

San Francisco-based market research firm EmSense has developed a headband that measures brainwave activity in response to advertising, media, creative concepts, and packaging.  The EmBand is intended for wear by volunteers as they surf the Internet or watch TV, or go out shopping.

This looks really healthy and natural, right?

The bands measure your neuroactivity, which reveals your cognitive interest in and emotional response to ads or messages (the EmBand can tell whether or not you’re even paying attention). The upsides: this method will yield more accurate results than asking people to fill out a survey.  And the two varieties of EmBand are non-invasive to the wearer — as in, you simply slide it over your forehead and then pull it off.  Not so scary, right?

Well, as the Daily Mail writes, (alongside a photo still from A Clockwork Orange) no, you should be scared — just because a device isn’t boring holes in your skull doesn’t mean it’s completely harmless.  And while we think the Mail is guilty of a little over-dramatizing, the lack of privacy for this kind of research gives us pause.  It also begs the question, can brain science really be used to create more effective advertising?

In the meantime, we’re interested to see if EmBand can get anyone to wear its headband. Would you give a market research firm access to your frontal lobes?