Sunday, August 28, 2011

Minority Report facial recognition advertising has arrived

Minority Report precog

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Facial recognition by store windows and posters, Minority Report-style, has now started slowly seeping into society. This technology, as it stands, has the ability to tailor digital displays to whoever stops and looks at an advertisement — or, with some clever camera positioning, even for people walking some distance away from the window.
Powered by Intel software and running on NEC displays, facial recognition technology is the next step in targeted advertising. Just imagine a shoe shop where the entire front window is an LCD or OLED display: If you’re a teenager and you stop to peer into the window, the software would show you an ad for some colorful kicks; if you’re older, or perhaps sporting a traveler’s wild beard, the screen might show some sensible walking shoes. Likewise, a menu outside a restaurant could highlight food that the owner thinks you’ll be most interested in.
The first application of this new technology, in the US at least, is The Venetian resort in Las Vegas, wherefacial recognition is being used in digital displays to tailor restaurant and entertainment suggestions for passersby. Kraft and Adidas are looking at using facial recognition for upcoming advertising campaigns, and apparently the technology is already used extensively in Japan. On the other end of the scale, however,SceneTap uses facial recognition to keep tabs on the denizens of Chicago bars — not for security reasons, but so that you can log into the SceneTap website and check on the age mix and male/female ratio of the crowd before heading into town. Looking forward, Intel says the technology would work well in kiosks and vending machines, or indeed almost any consumer-facing point of sale.
Facial recognitionIt’s worth noting at this point that the current incarnation of this technology isn’t as high-resolution as Minority Report — it can only differentiate between age and sex — but it’s clear that it’s a technology that advertisers are interested in, and thus totally-personalized digital displays and billboards will only be a few years away. For now, sex and age is derived from the width of your nose, the distance between your eyes, the length of your jaw, and other markers. We already have the technology to biometrically identify someone for the sake of logging into a computer system, though, but presumably this is hard to do on a commercial scale.
In the future, facial recognition won’t be limited to just digital displays, either. It could easily be extended to audio greetings — “Hello, Mr Anderton” — and once the system can pick us out of the crowd passing by a store, you’ll receive a voucher via SMS; or maybe that’ll just be done via GPS instead. Needless to say, though, there are also some serious privacy concerns to address before advertisers roll out systems that can track individuals from shop to shop. We already have an internet tracking cookies, and soon TV-watching cookies — wouldn’t a real life movement cookie be just a bit too much?
Having said that, we already let Google follow us across the web, so why should it matter if we let Adidas follow us across town? The government can subpoena our data from whoever it likes — Google, Adidas, it doesn’t matter — so why should we care about being tracked? As long as there’s the option to opt out…
Read more at Los Angeles Times

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