Facebook made headlines last month when they purchased virtual reality goggle manufacturing firm Occulus for the staggering sum of $2 billion. “We’re making a long-term bet that immersive, virtual and augmented reality will become a part of people’s daily life,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, remarking that wearing the Oculus goggles was “different than anything I’ve ever experienced in my life.”
Between Oculus and Google Glass, wearable devices are all the rage. But whereas these wearable devices were initially intended to be used primarily for gaming and social media, the future of this burgeoning market is beginning to point in new directions.
In a historic move, a California company has adopted a controversial neural mapping device called APRON (“Applied Personality Reconditioning On Demand”) into their employee training program. The wearable device, only recently approved by the California Technology Agency, will be the first apparatus of its kind to be corporately mandated for use by employees.
The device, while simple in concept, is at the cutting-edge of neural science. The helmet maps the neural signals produced by the wearer, producing a “personality map” that can be viewed on any computer or smartphone. The hope is that it will allow employers to better understand the personalities of the people that work for them, and for managers to have access to a dynamic real-time brain scan that captures how their employees are thinking, feeling, and responding to the office environment.
Lobbyists have pushed for laws requiring that companies receive written consent from workers before mandating the APRON devices, but in “at-will” states like California, courts have ruled that the new technology can be mandated at the discretion of employers.
Despite looming legal challenges, the future of APRON technology seems bright. Major retailers are currently investigating ways to add APRON into their customer’s sales experience. APRON helmets for use within retail stores is a strong possibility for the near future. Developers have also begun to experiment on infants, trying to map neural pathways for feelings of pleasure and contentment as they form in the brain, ideally allowing those pathways to be later stimulated in a retail environment. Though initial ethical questions have been raised in answer to the experiments, researchers believe the technology has the potential to dramatically change the face of retail sales and customer service.
Another promising and controversial application of APRON technology is what developers are calling “neural therapy.” The process is simple in concept—A series of mild electrical shocks are delivered by the APRON helmet, administered by a hand-held remote control device. The electric shocks can be used in a method similar to aversion therapy. Shocks are delivered whenever the wearer displays an undesired behavior, or when their brain scan reveals they are experiencing a problematic emotion. The remote control devices have obvious benefits for the life coaching industry, weight loss clinics, high school teachers, and for patients suffering from addiction. At present time, APRON neural therapy is being tested primarily for office use where the helmets can be used by managers to identify and correct objectionable behaviors on the part of their employees.
In a test of the neural therapy process, a recent in-office case study found that managers, though hesitant at first to use the devices to administer shocks, eventually came to use the device average of 13 times an hour. “We’ve found that it makes the office environment a more harmonious place,” said Jason Anderson, a manager at the test firm. “After a week of ‘neural therapy,’ many employees showed a dramatic change in their personality and behavior. It seemed to make the office a quieter, more productive place. And after a few days of therapy, the behaviors that we wanted to encourage in employees seemed to become intuitive. It works so well, I’m trying to convince my teenage son to let me try it on him,” Anderson joked.
Nationwide rollout of APRON helmets is scheduled for later this spring. Demand for the devices is already anticipated to far outpace supply. In a statement for the Associated Press, APRON developer Falsung said…
“April Fools from PeopleKeys!”
Yep. We made that all up. Did we fool you? If you’re looking for a way to understand what the people around you are thinking and feeling without resorting to electric shocks, try DISC instead.