Tuesday, October 04, 2011

A World That Watches And Asseses You Without Your Consent

5 Sci-Fi Ad Techniques That Are About to Make Life Creepier

"We are in the middle of a great cultural arms race between advertisers with tons of money and state of the art technology and the common man's ability to ignore the ads those advertisers create. You've seen hundreds of ads today -- how many did you actually remember?

Don't think for one second that ad executives are giving up. It's all about using futuristic technology to make their ads more and more invasive. That's how we've wound up with ...

#4. Billboards and Posters That Watch You Back

We guess it's no surprise that they felt the need to upgrade billboards; they have to be the most primitive form of advertising that still exists. They're huge, ugly signs that disrupt the landscape, and they barely seem to work as advertisements.

Think about it -- you can't even look at one along the highway without distracting yourself from your drive. And they're the most poorly targeted of all ads -- you'll see a billboard from a local doctor or clinic and wonder what percentage of the people driving by that one particular billboard happen to be looking for a urologist at that moment. And even if they are, will they remember the name and number of the clinic later, considering they can't write it down because they're trying to fucking drive? It seems like any billboard short of "Dunkin' Donuts, Next Exit" is an exercise in futility.

But what if that billboard could, say, scan and recognize you? And instead of just trying to shotgun passing traffic with some random advertisement, the digital screen would change to a different ad based on who's driving by? An ad that you might actually find interesting -- or at least, what it assumes you would find interesting, based on gender, age and ethnic stereotypes.

Doesn't that sound great? No, we didn't think so either. Well that's too bad -- seeing as it's all happening right now.

In 2010, Japanese electronics company NEC installed digital billboards that utilize facial recognition technology in Japanese shopping malls. They are able to look right back at the passersby, scanning their faces with a built-in camera and delivering ads suitable to their age and gender (although there is a slight error margin, which would seem to mean the chance for unintentional insult and/or hilarity is always present).

While the companies developing the technology claim the billboards will not be storing any of the images they gather, they do admit to storing data. We ... suppose that's OK. It's mainly just creepy because it's a form of communication that has always been one-way up to now. It's kind of like knowing that in the future, the girls in the porn you watch may be returning your stare, trying their damn best to suppress a laugh.

And in case you think this is all just a Japan thing, it's totally not. And this isn't just billboards, either. It works for signs of all sizes. For instance, take a look at this Amnesty International ad:

This bus stop poster displays a happy couple while you're looking at it, but as soon as you avert your eyes, the attached scanner that, by the way, has been keeping track of your goddamn eyeballs all along, suddenly changes the poster into a scene of domestic violence that you sort of detect from the corner of your eye. Good luck explaining your ensuing freakout to the authorities.


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