Using your brainwaves to sell more in the metaverse
NeuroXR has a new source of data for VR developers
Somehow, it’s almost three months since this newsletter launched and I’ve not covered a single startup in the metaverse space. That changes today! Scroll down to read all about NeuroXR, which has an interesting take on user research for what might become the next generation of ecommerce experiences.
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NeuroXR wants to help retailers make more money in the metaverse
If you believe Mark Zuckerberg–and anyone who has bought into his bold attempt to pivot
The jury’s still out on how well the public will take to this metaverse vision once it becomes more than what it currently amounts to: VR games, a few social experiences and basic work apps, and a fireball of ambition. But the hype has certainly got plenty of businesses excited, with entertainment companies, retailers, advertisers and more all exploring what their ‘metaverse strategy’ should be.
As metaverse experiences start to emerge, retail is sure to be a common use case. But as the reaction to an old Walmart VR shopping concept that went viral earlier this year showed, you can’t just port a physical world experience into VR and expect the same result.
Hoping to help retailers design impactful virtual environments that generate maximum revenue is a new Cambridge-based startup called NeuroXR [their new website will be live soon but I’ve linked to the founders’ LinkedIn profiles below].
Its software works with EEG-compatible VR headsets (this kind of thing) to measure the emotional experience of customers as they explore a virtual store. Whether they’re happy, excited, anxious or stressed, this data is logged alongside data about what they were doing in the store at the exact moment they felt a particular emotion.
The neurons don’t lie
“Whenever you're having any sort of emotion, your brain fires electrical impulses in between the neurons. Depending on the area of the brain, and depending on the wavelength of those impulses, they get translated into specific emotions,” explains CEO and co-founder Elena Cismigiu.
“So if you are experiencing anxiety, your brain fires so quickly and the headset can pick it up so quickly, before you actually feel anxious. They are accurate by the millisecond, and the really cool thing about it is that you can't cheat it.”
Cismigiu says this rapid brain response makes it more effective than surveys and focus groups, where people may temper their responses so as not to offend the researchers. “There is absolutely no way you can make your brain feel a different emotion because it happens so quickly.”
If this sounds familiar, it’s because it was already being used by retailers in the physical world a decade ago. NeuroXR has taken the approach and applied for patents for both a software platform to deliver this approach in VR and the metaverse, and a specialist headset for the task. However, the startup is focusing on the software as a commercial proposition for now.
With a background in behavioural neuroscience, Cismigiu co-founded NeuroXR (which was previously known as HX Lab) with psychologist Matthew Critchley in 2019.
Initially they worked as a consultancy, helping a VR hardware company refine their product based on the emotions users felt while using it. Now, with the support of deep tech venture builder Cambridge Future Tech, they aim to use the same techniques to help retailers as (or if!) the metaverse develops into a significant part of people’s online experience.
Timing is everything
What NeuroXR is doing makes sense as a proposition, but isn’t it all a bit soon? Even Meta thinks its vision of the metaverse could be a decade away from fruition. Cismigiu says she has spoken to big businesses keen to embrace the metaverse, and the transition from VR as a niche within gaming into something most people use daily is a market worth latching onto right now.
In fact, Cismigiu argues that the metaverse is not necessarily a paradigm shift but more an evolution of what we’ve all been doing online for a long time. “Just us talking in a virtual sort of setting [we were talking via Google Meet] - that could technically be called the metaverse.
“There is a bit of a misconception that it's just started now and it will only be just for playing a game or meeting with your friends. It is definitely way more than that. And from companies that I've seen and what we do, it is an extension to daily life.”
Cismigiu says NeuroXR will begin piloting its completed software platform over the next six months, with a commercial launch within a year. It will be sold as a subscription product, and the startup is in talks with a hardware company to provide headsets alongside the NeuroXR software as a package.
Cismigiu predicts that within five years, every new VR headset will be equipped with the capability to handle EEG measurements, which means that it can only be a matter of time before direct competitors to NeuroXR come on the scene. It’s easy to imagine the likes of Meta and Apple themselves offering these kinds of tools to developers.
But while similar offerings exist in other fields such as physical retail, NeuroXR hopes to be the first to make serious inroads in the metaverse space, armed with its pending hardware and software patents. Cismigiu says that existing similar offerings have a lot of catching up to do:
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