Someone from the BBC’s Future Media PR pointed out to me that I was in the latest issue of Wired UK. The whole thing isn’t online yet but I’ve made a manual copy (thanks to Laura Sharpe for buying the ipad version on my behalf)… Till its up online
Advertising Displays, Television and consoles are hooking up with recognition software to second-guess our hidden desires. By Ed White
Televisions, computers and retail displays are increasingly watching us as much as we’re watching them. They are likely to be the catalyst for a shift from mass to personalised media. Broadcastsers, game developers and tech companies have long dreamt of knowing who’s watching, and then making content relevant to each viewer.
Cheap cameras and sensors are making “perceptive media” a reality. First was Microsoft, whose Xbox gaming peripheral Kinect, launched in 2010, has put a perceptive-media device into more that 18 million homes worldwide. By linking people to their Xbox Live identity using facial recognition, it has made the gaming experience more tailored. But perceptive media is wider than gaming. Over two years, Japan Railways’ East Japan Water Business has installed about 500 intelligent vending machines that recognise customers’ age and gender via sensors and suggest drinks accordingly. Intel’s Audience Impression Metrics suite (Aim) users data captured by cameras on displays in shops to suggest products. Kraft and Adidas are early adopters. The software will also monitor responses to improve brands’ marketing.
But the real winner will be the entertainment industry. Samsung and Lenovo announced at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show that their new TVs will recognise a viewer by using a camera incorporated into the set, and bring up their favourite programmes; Intel is working on a set-top box with similar capabilities. Face tracking software is also making our screens more intuitive. Japanese broadcaster NHK is experimenting with emotion-recongnition software which can suggest, say a more exciting TV show if it detects boredom. But where perceptive media gets really exciting is in using viewer data to change narratives in real time. US-based video game company Valve software is experimenting with biofeedback systems, measuring physiological signals such as heart rate and pupil dilation in players of Portal 2 and Alien Swarm. If the zombies aren’t making you sweat, the AI director can send in more. And television may follow, believes Ian Forrester senior producer at BBC R&D. Sensors in your TV would pick up who’s in the room and subtly change the programmes’s details, live: for example the soundtrack could be based on your Spotify favorites.
If that sounds Big Brother-ish, that’s because it is. Perceptive media’s biggest hurdle will be privacy. But advocates such as Daniel Stein, founder CEO of San Francisco based digital agency EVB, say that if brands can prove the value of data sharing, they’ll win people over. Here’s looking at you.
Ed White is a senior writer and consultant at contagious communications, a London-based marketing consultancy