Brain Scans In Your Home


EmSense EmBand wireless headsetBrain scans (of a sort) are coming to a home near you. Neuromarketing firm EmSense has launched a new service that they say will let them monitor emotional reactions while consumers are at home. Noting that market research is conducted more and more via the Internet, EmSense says its wireless “EmBand” monitor can be set up in less than a minute and lets consumer reactions be monitored in the comfortable environment of their home.

How it works

Consumers will go through a screening and opt-in process to qualify to be part of the “neuro-panel,” and then be shipped a headband and wireless receiver. These will connect to their PC.

Periodically, the panel members will receive an email invitation to participate in a study. They will go to a web page, don their headband, and be monitored as they view the content. The neuro-testing can be conducted for a variety of content types, including TV advertisements, virtual shopping, creative concepts, and movie trailers.

Goal: 25,000+ Panelists

EmSense CEO Keith Winter says the firm strives to measure “emotion and consumer engagement in all forms of marketing stimuli, spanning advertising, packaging, creative concepts and the shopper experience.” The in-home approach offers the advantages of a more natural setting, lower costs, and larger sample sizes. The firm claims to have more than 2,000 households enrolled in the home neuro panel, and plans to expand that to 25,000 by the end of 2011.

As with many approaches in neuromarketing, EmSense seems to be trading power for ease of use and cost. Critics will no doubt point out that a full EEG cap with many more sensors will provide far more data. Nevertheless, the sample sizes EmSense is shooting for are unprecedented and would be hard to achieve with more intrusive measurement techniques.

The firm claims to be able to differentiate between subjects using biometrics, eliminating the possibility of duplicate testers. (I.e., people won’t be able to use 10 phony names to sign up for EmBands in order to pocket more testing fees.) The EmBand includes accelerometers to detect if a subject has been distracted while viewing content.

  1. Ron Wright says

    Hi Roger –

    I like how you put (of a sort) behind the term brain scans in your opening sentence. You probably should have put (not really) instead.

    Emsense’s use of a single dry electrode has been a topic of heated discussion among folks in neuromarketing about their methodology for several years now. (Your readers should know that I am an executive for another neuromarketing firm).

    As you reference in your posting, the cognitive neuroscience research community would not accept the Emsense approach. Whole head coverage using a conductive gel for EEG recordings is standard by 99.99% of all clinical and research EEG labs around the world. Less than .01% (less than a dozen) use dry electrodes and no research labs use one electrode for such important conclusions like Emsense. Putting a single electrode in the middle of the forehead (above eye-muscles causing tremendous artifact) and making key decisions on marketing media is like looking through the keyhole on the front door of a house and saying you know everything that is happening inside is just laughable.

    I applaud Emsense’s desire to build a large home panel service but one quick read thorough the hundreds of postings by their participants on Slick Deals about the difficulties they experience (and tricks they are employing) and you realize how suspect the “data” is that is being delivered from these 2,000 respondents:

    Your comment “EmSense seems to be trading power for ease of use and cost” maybe restated as Emsense seems to be trading accepted neuroscience practices and trying to convience the market research community that large sample sizes solve the issue of (not really) brain scans for method acceptance and profit.


    Ron Wright
    President / CEO
    Sands Research Inc.

  2. Markus Herzberg says

    Hi there

    I totally agree on Ron. And furthermore, how could a company really say they are measuring emotions with one electrode on the forehead. This area is a little bit to cognitive instead of emotional, isn’t it?


    Markus Herzberg
    Zutt & Partner – EmoConsulting

  3. Ron Wright says

    As Emsense moves neuro fully into on-line panels, MR professionals are concerned about existing problems with these methods of research:

    “On panel quality, 71% of both buyers and suppliers agreed that “online panel quality is worse than most clients believe”, while 65% of suppliers and 61% of clients admitted to having concerns over the representativeness of online panels.”

    Complete article:

  4. nuatan says

    Não é mais necessário utilizar eletrodos para controlar as funções cerebrais a distância. Após os experimentos de Delgado, na década de 1950, começou-se a utilizar um modelo de biometria por EEG a distância que permite a individuação e ativação de funções mentais de sujeitos distintos, e a distância. Os detalhes estão neste site que trata do controle físico da mente de modo científico e objetivo.

  5. Rob Sodickson says

    I am interested in becoming a panelist where do i sign up

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