BBC: Mind Player

Broadcaster introduces a way for people to select TV shows using brainwaves

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has collaborated with This Place, London, to develop a prototype brainwave-reading headset that people can use to control their television using only the power of their mind. The headset works with an experimental version of the BBC’s iPlayer on-demand streaming service.

Viewers’ brainwaves are monitored using an electroencephalography (EEG) headset, which tracks the electrical activity of the brain through sensors placed on the scalp.

After a user has donned the headset, the iPlayer app displays a list of the BBC’s most popular shows from that week. A progress bar scrolls through the options and, when it lands on the right show, the user either concentrates or relaxes their mind to start viewing the programme.

Cyrus Saihan, head of business development for the BBC’s Digital division said, ‘It’s an internal prototype designed to give our programme makers, technologists and other users an idea of how this technology might be used in future.’

Contagious Insight /

Looking to the future / As a proof of concept, it’s fair to accept that there would be a few teething issues with the technology. And judging by the video above, it doesn’t seem like brainwaves are going to replace the tried and tested remote control anytime soon. For many viewers, the change in behaviour (from clicking a button to shifting your state of mind) might well be a bit too much to ask.

However, this kind of technology does effectively convey the steps that the BBC is taking to stay at the forefront of communications, highlighting the broadcasting company’s innovative approach.

Open access / It also shows how the company is finding new ways for people to access its offering. While it may look like a gimmick for the average viewer, this type of technology could be used to help people with a broad range of disabilities who cannot use traditional TV remote controls very easily. For an organisation whose key charter involves opening up access to a diverse range of people, it’s particularly on-brand. Its 2012 Equality Information Report stated: ‘The BBC is committed to promoting equal opportunities for all, both in our working environment and in our output. We aim to reflect the diversity of the UK and make our services accessible to all’.

Mind controlled marketing / Other brands have started to experiment with EEG headsets, finding interesting ways for the technology to be used in marketing. Recently, the Russian airline S7 offered wannabe-travellers the chance to win tickets to their dream destination — if they could focus on it for long enough. A few years ago, beer brand Castle Lite created the Extra Cold Mind Reader, where prospective drinkers could don an EEG headset that was hooked up to a beer-dispensing machine.

While it has largely been used as a novelty, as EEG headsets get cheaper we may well see more brands using the tech to find ways to help their consumers.

Other work being carried out in this area includes research being conducted by the University of Washington, which has developed an EEG system which lets one person control the body of another, creating a brain-to-brain interface.

(This story originally appeared on Contagious I/O, an intelligence tool featuring the most creative and effective ideas in marketing from around the world).