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Adverts with eyes know when you're watching ... and they're already here

By

July 16, 2013

City dwellers will soon by under the watchful gaze of digital ad hoardings (Photo: Shutter...

City dwellers will soon by under the watchful gaze of digital ad hoardings (Photo: Shutterstock)

Though facial recognition software has been in our homes for some time (having been a feature in Picasa and iPhoto since 2009), the prospect of being the unwitting subject of similar technology while out and about is an alien one. That could be about to change thanks to the announcement of OptimEyes, a system designed to be fitted to digital advertising hoardings in Europe to gauge just who is paying attention.

Developed by "audience measurement" specialists Quividi (literal translation from Latin: I saw that) for advertising company Amscreen, OptimEyes won't, Amscreen says, identify individuals, but instead be used to gauge the number and type of people paying attention to particular adverts. This will "provide an even greater understanding into the effectiveness of any given advert across our entire network," the company writes.

Amscreen says that the system, which, unsurprisingly, requires the integration of a camera, will gauge the number of possible viewers and compare it with the actual number of viewers, as well as their age and gender. The system will also log the time and location of each view. And because this data will be reported live, Amscreen suggests it raises the possibility to optimize a marketing campaign mid run.

So will these all-seeing advertisements be easy to spot? "Basically they're a webcam," Amscreen's Marketing Director Mike Hemmings, told Gizmag. "It will not be obvious there's a camera there. There'll be no glaring light." But Hemmings describes the system more as a facial identification system rather than a recognition one, gauging the darker areas of a face to estimate age (with accuracy in the high 80s, percentage wise, he says). Gender, meanwhile, is "guessed" on the basis of attributes such as hair length.

Part of Alan Sugar's empire, Amscreen controls some 6,000 digital advertising screens in Europe. Hemmings told Gizmag that the intention is to install the OptimEyes system across the company's entire installed base in the UK, Germany and Switzerland, with screens to follow in France and Oman.

Amscreen expects to announce advertising partners in the next few months, but as to when these screens will appear in our streets … "We've been testing for a good year now," Hemmings says.

So, if you live in any of the above countries, the next time you gawp at an advertising hoarding, there's a slim possibility that it's gawping back. Qui vidi? Quod eram visus, more like.

Amscreen's promotional video is below.

Source: Amscreen, via Mashable

About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life.   All articles by James Holloway
5 Comments

Good. Now they can work on the next stage, where the ads interpret your disgruntled facial expression and defensive body language.

Then leave you alone.

Nairda
16th July, 2013 @ 09:38 pm PDT

@Nairda,

Beautifully put. Whilst I accept that advertising is a fact of life (and pretty much essential for funding enterprises such as this very website), I find the over-personalised online advertising somewhat intrusive- one cannot look up the price of a mundane item online without being subjected to endless spam ads for the same product long after said item has been purchased or otherwise forgotten about.

Advertising surveillance from billboards? How soon before that develops into something more invasive once the advertisers have decided that the technology has become publicly acceptable? How soon before advertisers start tracking the movements of people so that they can change the adverts as you walk before them, assuming you are their targeted demographic?

Sounds far-fetched and paranoid? Well, for years now online stores have used cookies to follow not only what you are following on their own sites, but can also install spyware to see where else on the web you are venturing- which competitor's sites, for instance. I do not trust commercial interests to maintain good moral ethics in regard to such technologies- usually they go by their interpretation of the law and what they think they can get away with.

bergamot69
17th July, 2013 @ 05:44 am PDT

Whoa... Big Brother much?

Huge potential privacy concerns here.

Chris B
17th July, 2013 @ 06:20 am PDT

DoMoCo and by extension NTT has been doing this for almost a decade!

Personally, I have completely numbed myself from advertising that I no longer am distracted by it. I have configured all my computers to block all advertising (hint, use your host file to redirect known ad servers to 127.0.0.1) and I use a DVR so no ads on TV, I never listen to radio...solely my own MP3 collection and I don't drive on major interstates except for perhaps once or twice a year. Plus, I don't go into cities...so nope, no advertising for me! And a bonus is that the place where I vacation, Hawaii, it's illegal to have billboards! Yay all around!

Ed
18th July, 2013 @ 12:22 am PDT

Bergamot69 is right about the advertising sent to you. I needed a new refrigerator last year, researched brands, efficiency, service, price, and retailers available. I purchased it I think in April 2012. I am still getting targeted ads and spam e-mail.

I do not have spyware, that I can guarantee. I use Deep Freeze and froze my system immediately after building it. I don't even have the Windows updates because they keep being discarded at every boot. No, it is from the initial information captured of my search.

I am almost afraid of shopping on line because I know I will be spammed for years because I need or want something.

NatalieEGH
24th July, 2013 @ 02:52 pm PDT
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