You may think you’re safe eating your oat flakes this sunny morning, but in fact there are people who have plans for you. More specifically, these marketing folk are aiming to work out how you think and feel about their products, but not just by taking stodgy surveys, oh no. Instead these guys are rolling out technology that might make your hair curl.
The base camp of this campaign is to try and coral our attention, to check out exactly what we find interesting as we wander around the shopping universe of malls and stores, using something called SMI Eye Tracking Glasses 2.0. These clunky (for now) looking glasses contain twin high resolution cameras at the bottom of each lens section, which watch you while you watch stuff.
The resulting eye movements are then tracked and recorded onto a nicely portable Samsung Galaxy S4 docking unit, from which the data can be extracted and analyzed in excruciating detail by any handy computer. The object of the exercise is to collect a set of aggregate data over time which can be analyzed to deliver pinpoint insights into how to get us to buy more stuff.
That’s pretty thought provoking on its own, but the real scary stuff comes when they combine the glasses with an Emotiv Neuroheadset which will scan your brain waves at the same time. The result is a Borg-like apparatus which not only tracks whatever your eye finds attractive (which the company quaintly calls ‘fixations‘) but can then add in your brain waves to discover exactly how you feel about it emotionally. Is that price too high, the color jarring, or the packaging disturbing?
It’s not hard to see how powerful this could become. Not only will the marketeers be able to tell whether their marketing structures, colors and packaging are working as desired, but they’ll be able to A/B test various combinations and see which variety delivers the biggest bang for the buck. We, the hapless consumer, will end up being nothing more than shop cattle, prodded, cajoled and enticed into buying stuff we’re not even sure we need.
Don’t believe? Just try walking around your local IKEA store sometime, and we dare you to emerge without buying something. Now imagine the power of that enticement distilled and enhanced by a factor of ten.
What’s interesting is the fact that this kind of tracking and analysis mirrors almost exactly the work being done by web marketeers to improve engagement and purchasing funnels on major ecommerce websites. The web user interface gurus spend millions working out how to capture our attention (without kittens) and maximize the chance that we’ll buy, and they do it in part by creating sophisticated heatmaps, which show our eye movements and visual activity from the second we land on a site.
Above on the left is a conventional website heatmap and on the right is an SMI eye glass tracking graph. See anything similar? The real world catches up with the digital universe? Who would have thought?
So, the next time you’re walking down your local supermarket aisle admiring the 200 different types of toothpaste, just remember that there’s a growing arsenal of marketing technology working flat out to get you to buy THAT tube down there. And as with a casino, the house odds are getting better all the time – more than we realize.
It’s fun being part of a herd isn’t it?