Ikea Is Using Brain Activity Data to Determine If You’re Worthy of Its Artwork

Affinity becomes currency in retailer’s tech-driven stunt

Created by Ogilvy Social Lab Brussels, the experience was created to ensure that only true art lovers would be able to take home a piece from the coveted line.
Ikea

The old saying “money can’t buy happiness” recently came to life for shoppers at an Ikea in Belgium, where an exclusive line of carpets required more than just cold hard cash for purchase.

Instead, those interested in the limited collection—which consisted of carpets designed by eight contemporary artists, including Virgil Abloh, artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton—had to put on a headset and prove they were having a visceral reaction to one (or more) of the designs. Otherwise, they weren’t allowed to get their hands on any of the 109 carpets available.

Dubbed the “(He)art Scanner,” the headset measured aspects like brain waves, facial expressions and heartbeat in real time while shoppers observed each rug, according to Ikea. An algorithm then used that information to assign each individual a score, which determined whether or not they could buy the rug in question.

The rugs were created by eight renowned contemporary artists, such as Virgil Abloh, Craig Green and Filip Pagowski.

Created by Ogilvy Social Lab Brussels, the experience was created to ensure that only true art lovers would be able to take home a piece from the coveted line, which is part of the retailer’s annual Art Event Collection. Each year, Ikea partners with a handful of artists to create one-of-a-kind pieces of accessible and affordable artwork. Past iterations have included posters and crystal glass figurines.

In the past, Ikea has found that people ultimately end up selling these items online for a much higher price. With its latest stunt, the company is attempting to skirt around this issue by only selling to people who (hopefully) intend to keep what they’ve bought.

According to Ikea, none of the rugs purchased at that particular store in Belgium were sold on eBay, although something like that is obviously difficult to track. Either way, the sentiment behind the campaign is a nice reminder of what art is all about—enjoyment, not status symbols.

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