Remember mood rings? The jewelry that could totally tell your mood judging by the temperature of your finger? (Before you inevitably got them wet and they just went black.)
Japanese retailer UNIQLO has come out with it's own, much more scientific version -- a machine that uses neuroscience technology to assess your mood and then, on the back of that result, recommend what t-shirt you should purchase (the store has over 600 styles and colours on offer).
Called "UMood" the technology is the first of its kind in Australia and was launched on Wednesday at the UNIQLO Pitt Street store in Sydney.
So, how does it work?
In layman's terms -- the customer sits in the UMood and is attached to a head sensor designed to read your brain activity. Then the person is shown a series of ten short images or videos (this reporter was presented everything from a man diving in a deep blue sea to a close up shot of a wolf's eyes) and the sensor gauges your reaction to come up with a final result.
"Essentially you’ve got a system that is picking brain electrical activity, and it's doing that from a single sensor at the front of someone’s head," consumer neuroscientist Dr Phil Harris told The Huffington Post Australia.
"That’s a good site because there are things happening in the front, especially on the left, which are linked to whether we are drawn towards something or not, and that’s pretty well established science."
"So that signal is going up into the cloud, and what is happening up there is an algorithm is being applied that was developed by a Japanese academic group, Dentsu ScienceJam. They built the algorithm that pulls out the raw brain activity and calculates some metrics useful for understanding how people are reacting to things, using measures of interest, attention, stress and drowsiness."
"One signal goes up, is crunched in the cloud and comes back down as five different metrics. From those you get one score."
That score is then compared to another score that was derived from 100 people each rating the range of UNIQLO t-shirts, and as a result, five t-shirts are presented to the consumer which should match their current mood.
Is it effective? In short -- Harris doesn't really know.
"The brain stuff as far as I understand is based on academic research that has been published so that stands up," Harris said.
"In terms of the UMood, it's a matter of how much you’re able to relax and be in the moment and connect with the videos.
"We haven’t measured yet how good the fit is in terms of what it picks out and what people want."
Nevertheless, Harris anticipates the technology is around to stay, particularly in a world of increasing consumer choice.
"I have spent 15 years using this gear -- but we have been using it to test ads and products," Harris told HuffPost Australia. "This is the first time I’ve ever seen that kind of technology plugged into retail."
"But it makes so much sense. People are being offered more and more choice -- there are 600 shirts here. Consumers can overwhelmed by that level of choice. We are seeing a situation where people want more choice but then get frustrated by it."
"Something like the UMood is helping you to narrow it down, saying 'maybe these five could be the ones for you.' I don't know about other people but personally I can't even choose a tie."
And as for how it works in practice? This reporter had a go and got the result "seeing red." Others received diagnoses of "loved up" and "adventurous" so whether or not the UMood somehow picked up on any deeply hidden anger issues remains to be seen.
The UMood is now available to test at the UNIQLO Pitt Street Store, Sydney.
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