August 8th, 2012

Billboards and TVs Detect Your Face: Advertisers Salivate

By Tarun Wadhwa

To a computer, your face is a set of points and measurements between your features, but to advertisers, these data sets mean lucrative profits and a new way to connect with customers. Facial detection technology is making it feasible to do real-time measurement and analysis of advertisements in the physical world and predict the products you will want to buy, based on who you are or what you look like.  In a world full of cameras and ubiquitous gadgets, there are serious concerns of how far advertisers will take this. From the advertisements outside, to the televisions in your home – this technology will be coming to a screen near you.

Next time you are looking up at a billboard, there’s a chance it may be looking back down at you.  Immersive Labs has developed software for digital billboards which can measure the age range, gender and attention-level of a passer-by, and quantify the effectiveness of an outdoor marketing campaign.  Beyond just bringing metrics to the outdoor advertisements, facial detection technology can tailor ads to people based on their features.  Plan UK, a children’s charity group ran a bus-stop advertisement as part of their “Because I Am A Girl” campaign where women passing by would see a full 40-second clip, while if man saw the ad, it would only display a message directing him to their website.  The next generation of systems could take this data collection much farther – an algorithm could judge whether you look happy, sad, sick, healthy, comfortable or nervous, and direct personalized advertisements to you.

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