Elisa, Finland’s largest telecom and digital service provider, wanted to offer sports fans something truly revolutionary.
The result was the Feel the Game project, which enabled the audience to follow a football player’s emotions during an important match – measured with a brain scanner during the game, in real time, for the first time ever.
AN (ALMOST) IMPOSSIBLE FEAT OF TECHNOLOGY
We joined forces with Elisa’s experimental marketing hub Elisa Kulma, the Finnish top division football team HIFK, and a team of cognitive neuroscientists.
First, we created a wearable version of an ultra light EEG scanner, which was able to send data on the player’s brainwaves to a computer in real time from long distances. Using the latest studies in their field, the neuroscientists developed algorithms to translate the EEG signals into four different emotions or states of mind: Flow, Go, Stop and Effort.
Ventures like this would normally belong in a laboratory, but we decided to set the bar even higher.
We launched the project at the hottest game of the season, the local derby between Helsinki teams HIFK and HJK. The EEG scanner was taped on the back of HIFK defender Tommi Vesala. Testing the extremely sensitive hardware couldn’t interfere with Vesala getting ready for the crucially important match, so its durability and reliability were pushed to the limit.
HOW BIG EMOTIONS MADE HISTORY
The project received overwhelming media attention. Pilot projects always involve risks, but this one was a live test of something totally new, in front of a huge audience. The largest national newspapers had all featured the project, and heated discussion was taking place on online boards, too.
During the match thousands of people were able to watch the visualization on their phone or computer screen, seeing how the player’s state of mind changed from Flow to Stop or all the way to unwilling Effort.
For data visualisation we wanted to make it as easy to understand as possible so we chose emojis as the key visualisation for the emotions felt during the game. According to studies Finland is the most enthusiastic country in the world when it comes to the use of emojis so it was a natural choice.
The reception was very positive: 93% of the users would like to repeat the experience.
To Elisa the test was an important pilot project, which can potentially be expanded to a number of other sports. How would it feel to watch a game of poker on TV if you knew the emotions of the players? Or to tune into the mind of a top coach during the Stanley Cup final?
The Feel the Game project might have been a small step for neuroscience, but it was a giant leap for sports entertainment.