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Technology Shows What's on a Customer's Mind

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Foviance founder Catriona Campbell

"To some people, this might sound like black arts, but we're already generating really useful data for clients," says Foviance founder Catriona Campbell.

Credit: Foviance

Foviance founder Catriona Campbell, an expert on human-computer interaction, provides clients with research studies that measure Internet users' subconscious, emotional responses to Web site content using electroencephalography (EEG) and eye-tracking technology. As they browse the Web, participants are monitored with a cap that studies electrical activity in the brain. Campbell says the studies help Web developers and advertisers better understand people's responses to their products.

PKR, an online gaming company, used Foviance's EEG studies to discover when poker players became confused during a game so that the company could improve its online training sessions.

Microsoft researcher Desney Tan says that although EEG is useful for measuring how difficult a task is for the brain, it can't measure people's emotions. "I don't think EEG can give the whole picture," he says. Tan is taking the use of EEG one step further in Microsoft Research laboratories, studying the possibility of controlling computer use through brain waves alone. He says there is still a long way to go.

"An EEG-enabled helmet will work today in a fairly controlled set of situations, with users that have received some training in using their brains to send basic instructions to computers," Tan says. "But it doesn't work for everyone, and there's still great deal of work to be done on why the results vary so widely from individual to individual."

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