Biofeedback technology finds place in project at CMU

Grad student sees biofeedback helping to market clothing to customers

By Randi Shaffer
Morning Sun (Mount Pleasant)

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. (AP) — What happens with neuroscience, clothing and marketing all merge? You get Central Michigan University graduate student Benjamin Touchette’s project.

Touchette is using biofeedback technology to measure consumer perception to various retail products.

“Biofeedback in general is exactly what it sounds like,” Touchette told the Morning Sun of Mount Pleasant. “(Getting) biological feedback from a person.”

The technology, Touchette said, measures a person’s reaction to various clothing types.

Touchette said this technology can be used to better market clothing to customers, saving both the time and money of shoppers and manufacturers.

“I love the idea, that it is a new way to measure consumer reaction,” Touchette said. “When a company is doing product development or testing their advertisements, this is kind of where it gets into apparel.”

When a company is launching a new line, Touchette said, they will often bring in consumers and get reactions.

The biofeedback technology can see the neurological activity of those consumers to better gauge how a customer reacts to a product.

Touchette, a student in CMU’s Apparel Merchandising and Design program, is working heavily with faculty member Seung-Eun Lee on the project.

“This is emerging technology that has never been used before in this way, particularly in fashion consumer studies,” Lee said in a press release. “Through our program, we try to apply cutting edge technology to critical apparel issues and help our students become innovative thinkers.”

Touchette said that the idea spawned from a simple thought.

“Is there another way that we can measure how people think about products before they’re potentially produced?” he asked. “That’s where neuromarketing became involved.”

Touchette said the project is new.

Neuromarketing is a difficult field to break into because of a divide between neuroscience and marketing.

Especially when retail and clothing is added to the mix.

It’s so interdisciplinary that nobody wants to break into the field, Touchette, which is what makes the biofeedback technology unique to CMU.

It’s also the reason Touchette found himself drawn to the idea when he first heard about it a year ago.

Touchette said he frequently works with an EEG, which measures electrical impulses from a person’s brain.

These impulses are what gives away whether a consumer is drawn to a product or not, Touchette said.

Morgan Schanski, apparel merchandising and design graduate student, conducted an experiment for an exercise apparel manufacturer using a thermal manikin to simulate the sweat levels of a woman wearing their garments while running a marathon.

“We had to set the thermal mannequin to simulate what a woman would be like when she sweats,” Schanski said in a press release. “It was my favorite project as a graduate student.”


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