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Will Smith and Michael Eisner want to literally get inside your head

Will Smith and Michael Eisner want to literally get inside your head
[Photo: Jack Patrick/Unsplash]

Nielsen TV ratings can help measure how many people are watching The Masked Singer or Vanderpump Rules, but the future of audience measurement may be less about Nielsen and more about neuroanalytics.

Research startup SPARK Neuro is combining electroencephalography (EEG), galvanic skin response, facial coding, and eye tracking to give TV creators and networks a comprehensive measure of attention and emotion. Now, it’s added functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), offering researchers the ability to see which areas of the brain are being activated and what that means for persuasion and decision-making.

The powerful combination of technology allows SPARK Neuro’s research team to get fast electrical data and pinpointed brain region activation, which adds a level of complexity and accuracy to the overall results. All that tech just so the writers on Game of Thrones know that people aren’t happy about the latest episode (although, theoretically, they could just look on Twitter).

Following the company’s $13.5-million Series A in August 2018, which was led by Thiel Capital (aka Peter Thiel), with participation from Hollywood insiders Will Smith and Michael Eisner, SPARK Neuro is expanding its relationships with companies like Anheuser-Busch, Clorox, FedEx, Fidelity, Hulu, JetBlue, Mars, NBC, Paramount, State Farm, and Walmart, among many others.

They aren’t just using their advanced neuroanalytics to help TV networks create shows people actually want to watch. (Looking at you, Kevin Can Wait.) As the 2020 presidential election gets underway, SPARK Neuro will turn to its neuroanalytic powers to offer predictive political insights. It’s also dabbling with defense thanks to a Department of Defense grant, using its expertise for counterterrorism research. Yes, the same tech that will tell TV execs that Pitch was the best show on TV and should be brought back could also prevent a terrorist attack.

While that sounds freaky as hell and equally invasive, CEO Spencer Gerrol swears it’s for consumers’ own good. “SPARK Neuro is helping brands and entertainment entities to better understand what consumers find engaging and entertaining in order to create better content for consumers to interact with day to day,” he told Fast Company. “Combining fNIRS with our other research technology will help brands and entertainment companies create even better content than before and add an additional layer of complexity and accuracy to the overall results that were previously nearly impossible to reach.”

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