The Happiness Blanket – Reading Brainwaves not Thoughts

Biosensor Technology
What if you could actually see what your customers were feeling.  That was the idea behind the recent partnership between British Airways and neurofeedback technology companies MyndPlay and NeuroSky.

British Airways recently tested out a headset that, coupled to specially designed blanket with fibre optics woven into it, would be able to sense the passengers emotions.  Analog signals from the wearers brain can be interpreted and transmitted to the blanket.  The fibre optics change in colour from red to blue when the headset wearer is at their most relaxed.

British Airways Happiness Blanket

British Airways was keen to test this new technology out on a real flight with real passengers.  Their experiment, at 30,000ft, enabled them to monitor whether the plane’s occupants were able to relax and get a good night’s sleep.  The data that they collected will help them to improve the customer service experience across all their flights.

The people who took part in the experiment were all volunteers and were aboard a BA189 Dreamliner flight from London to New York.

Ipsos MORI have identified the seven stages of emotions that we experience when we are on a flight: enjoyment, conviviality, belonging, security, control, empowerment and vitality. 

How it works:

The headsets, worn by the volunteers, are capable of measuring very small electrical fluctuations in the neurons in the brain.  The information is collected and sent, via Bluetooth, every second to fibre optic lights that are woven into the corresponding Happiness Blanket.  Cabin staff were able to see the blanket turn red if a passenger was stressed or anxious.  The blanket turned blue when the wearer was calm and relaxed.  The visual indication gave immediate feedback.

What are Neurons? 

A neuron is an electrically excitable cell capable of transmitting information via electrical or chemical signals.  Connections between neurons are called synapses and it’s here that signals can ‘jump’ from one neuron to another.  Neural networks, formed by numerous neurons and synapses, are the building blocks of the nervous system.  Some neurons have very specific jobs such as sensory neurons, which respond to our 5 basic senses, or motor neurons that control muscles.  Neuron’s are unlike other cells in your body as they stop being produced shortly after you’re born.  However, new connections between the remaining neurons can continue to be formed throughout your life.

Initially, there were fluctuations in the Happiness Blanket colours as passengers settled in, preparing themselves for their flight.  As cabin crew served food and drink to the passengers the colours begin to migrate towards blue.  Variations in colours continued as passengers watched different types of films and entertainment, from comedies to thrillers.

Happiness BlanketBut being able to sleep comfortably created the biggest change to blue during the experiment.  The Happiness Blankets were able to show all the relevant areas that the airline had to get right to enable their customers to have a relaxed and enjoyable flight.

Knowing how to interpret your brainwaves via electroencephalogram (EEG) technology is creating many opportunities for companies to develop new products that we will be able to control with our minds.  We should expect to see a continued rise in wearable technology that takes advantage of body and mind biosensors.

What do you think about this new technology – are you ready for it?

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