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Brief Published: 8 Jul 2014

British Airways' Happiness Blanket

British Airways has trialled a brainwave-responsive 'happiness blanket' to measure and display passenger wellbeing during transatlantic flights.

Volunteers on a flight from London to New York wore electroencephalography (EEG) headbands that pick up neural activity to measure whether the wearer is calm or alert. The blanket visually represents this by glowing bluer when the wearer is calm and redder when the wearer is feeling alert, thanks to fibre optics interwoven with the threads.

The blankets could gather valuable data on passenger sleep and relaxation patterns, which would help the airline measure customer responses to in-flight service. They highlight the increased influence of neuroscience and mind control on technology and culture – explored further in Cannes Lions 2014: The Brains Behind Better Ads.

Similar technology might be integrated into clothing to collect data and respond to the wearer's emotional state – stiffening to provide greater protection when the wearer feels vulnerable, for example.

Recent experiments in high-tech fashion include British designer A. Sauvage's wireless smartphone-charging trousers in collaboration with Finnish tech firm Nokia, and Dutch designer Pauline van Dongen's dress with integrated solar panels.

For more on wearables and the commercial opportunities presented by brainwave tracking and translation, see Human First, part of our Agile Futures Macro Trend. The fashion industry's forays into wearable tech are also explored in Wearable Futures 2013: Fashion and Future Fashion, part of our 2013 reporting from the South by Southwest Interactive festival in Texas.