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eBay’s Mind-Reading London Pop-Up Offers a Glimpse into the Future of Shopping

Picture of Claire Lancaster
Tech & Entrepreneurship Editor
Updated: 3 October 2017
In the heart of London’s Fitzrovia, eBay has launched an experimental pop-up that promises to read your mind.

Described by the brand as ‘the world’s first subconscious shopping experience’, The Art of Shopping equips participants with EEG headsets from UK-based ‘brain tech’ brand MyndPlay, and asks them to stroll through a gallery space curated by Saatchi Art.

‘The headset reads your reactions to the works of art around you, identifying through sensors how you respond to the works of art,’ eBay Marketplace director of communications Julia Hutton-Potts told Culture Trip.

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At the end of the tour, guests are given personalised shopping carts filled with eBay product suggestions ‘built out of the way you react and respond to the pieces around you’.

According to Hutton-Potts, guests are matched with eBay items that produce ‘a similar psychological response’ to the pieces of art.

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While the pop-up is more useful as a marketing tool than a shopping tool, it brings attention to the way tech advances are bringing highly curated and personalised suggestions to shoppers.

Through a combination of consumer data (things like your shopping and web browsing histories) and algorithms (formulas that search strings of keywords to determine ‘if you like this, you might like this’), online retails are increasingly able to ‘read our minds’ and respond with customised suggestions. By subtly tailoring what the site displays based on your demographics, interests, location or even purchase history, brands are able to show potential shoppers something that’s personally relevant or interesting to them.

Later this year, eBay is set to unveil eBay Interests, a new homepage built on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning that will display inventory and content based on ‘shopping behaviour, a shopper’s personal style, interests, activities and passions’.

‘Through The Art of Shopping we’re exploring personalised shopping in a fun, engaging way – but the integration of Interests at the end of the year gives a glimpse into how we see the future of shopping on eBay,’ said eBay UK vice president Rob Hattrell.

For more on how big brands are using AI and data to read our minds, see The 5 Most Shocking Things Google Search Reveals About Who We Really Are. Read How Targeted Dark Ads Are Manipulating Our Opinions to explore the fine line between usefulness and manipulation in the big data future.