Emotive Systems

Topics: Video game, Video game console, PlayStation 3 Pages: 56 (11542 words) Published: January 3, 2015
9-510-050
REV: JULY 20, 2011

ELIE OFEK
JASON RIIS
PAUL HAMILTON

Em
motiv Sy
ystems,, Inc.: It’s
I the Thoug
ghts That Coun
nt
We started this company
c
to rev
volutionize the way human brrains interact w
with machines.
— Tan Le, president, Em
motiv System
ms, Inc.
Ph
hone calls tha
at went welll into the weee hours of tthe night haad become ro outine for Taan Le,
presid
dent and cofo
ounder of Em
motiv Systemss, Inc. The co
ompany’s com
mmercial heaadquarters were in
San Francisco’s
F
So
outh of Markeet district, wh
hile the R&D labs were in Sydney, Ausstralia; the 166-hour
time zone
z
differen
nce often resu
ulted in Le ha
aving to be up
p at “crazy h
hours.” But th
he last few m
months
had been
b
especia
ally intense. Le was tryin
ng to reach company co
onsensus on the best w
way to
comm
mercialize Em
motiv’s novel technology.
t
Itt was 12 a.m.. on the U.S. W
West Coast aas her iPhone rang.
She co
ould see it wa
as Nam Do, Emotiv’s
E
CEO
O and cofound
der, calling fro
om Sydney.
Fo
or five years, Emotiv scien
ntists, led by renowned
r
ph
hysicist Allan Snyder, had toiled on wh
hat Le
believ
ved would fo
orever chang
ge the way people
p
interfaaced with co
omputers. Th
he R&D team
m had
createed a special headset, callled EPOC, which
w
could
d transmit brrain signals wirelessly to
o any
computer, and dev
veloped elabo
orate softwaree algorithms that could reecognize thosse signals, in eeffect, “read
ding the userr’s mind.” Without
W
the need
n
to say, ttouch, or mo
ove a thing, the system could
decipher your faciial expression
ns, emotions, and intentio
ons, and then
n translate th
hose into com
mputer
comm
mands. Your digital
d
avatar could smile when you sm
miled or frow
wn when you were angry; iif you
were in a really good
g
mood, a peppy pop song could play in the b
background, but if your mood
suddeenly turned more
m
seriouss, a down-tem
mpo song w
would be seleected automaatically. You could
contro
ol the movem
ment and loca
ation of objeccts on your sccreen by justt thinking abo
out the action
n you
had in
n mind. In th
heir demos, Emotiv
E
devellopers used a floating 3D
D cube. CEO Do still got g
giddy
every
y time he was able to rotate the cube by
y visualizing it doing som
mersaults or m
making it disappear
by im
magining whatt the picture on
o the compu
uter screen wo
ould look likee when the cu
ube was absen
nt.
By
y October 200
07, Le and heer colleagues were comforrtable that thee basic technology worked d and
could
d detect a wid
de enough ran
nge of mental states—30 to
o be exact. Lau
unching with
hin 12 to 14 m
months
seemeed perfectly reasonable to
o everyone at
a Emotiv, ju
ust in time fo
or the 2008 h
holiday seaso
on. Le
wanteed to target consumers
c
off the bat an
nd believed th
he video gam
me market p
presented the most
attracctive setting for
f Emotiv’s debut. She was
w content to
o go after th
he PC gaming
g market. CE
EO Do
agreed that gaming was a good
g
launch choice, and surely the Emotiv systeem would b
be PC
compatible, but hee tended to disagree
d
with
h Le’s “PC on
nly” approach
h. Do soliciteed input from
m two
indusstry “heavy hitters”—Rand
dy Breen, Em
motiv’s chief p
product officeer and formerrly a vice pressident
of dev
velopment at LucasArts, and
a
Ed Fries, Emotiv’s dirrector and forrmerly on thee founding team of _______
_______________
_______________
________________
___________________________________________________________________ Professo
ors Elie Ofek and Jason Riis of Harv
vard Business Scho
ool and Dr. Paul H
Hamilton of Stanfo
ord University preepared this case. R
Research
assistance was provided by Guillaume Merciier. HBS cases are developed solely aas the basis for classs discussion. Cases are not intended to serve as endorrsements, sources of
o primary data, or...
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