Imagine for a moment if you will, waiting for a bus. You’re standing beside a bus shelter, and all of the sudden you hear a voice "Psst!". You glance around and notice an animated face on display on the side of the bus shelter. As soon as you make eye contact with the face, the voice you just heard says "Yah you!". You step back for a moment, somewhat startled. The voice says "Don’t worry, you’re not crazy. I just want to talk to you for a moment." At this point, figuring this is just a prerecorded video, you glance down at your mobile device and start to walk away. The voice comes back "Hey wait, where are you going?”. You glance over at a person a couple feet away; they don’t seem to be hearing the same voice you do. You walk back towards the screen and the voice immediately says "Thanks, this will just take a moment", and proceeds to go into its sales pitch.
This may seem like a scene from a futuristic movie, but the technology to do this exists today. Neuromarketing is a relatively new field of marketing. Companies like Innerscope and NeuroFocus specialize in using biometric technology to gauge reactions of consumers when given various audiovisual advertising stimuli. "Neuromarketing… is extremely valuable in providing learning regarding consumer attention and involvement, and emotional reactions," said Horst Stipp, EVP, Global Business Strategy at The Advertising Research Foundation, in relation to their NeuroStandards Collaboration Project. It’s perfectly plausible that such analysis can be done real-time, which would not only be useful for gathering statistics regarding the effectiveness of an advertisement, but would also allow for a level of interactivity never seen before.
Simple facial and body feature tracking could be used in the example I’ve given to determine where people are and what they’re looking at. This is amazing enough, but it could also conceivably be coupled with a new directional sound technology that only allows people within the beam of a special ultrasonic speaker can hear. Holosonics, a USA firm led by Dr. F. Joseph Pompei of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is already producing such a speaker for commercial use, known as the Audio Spotlight. Their product was initially employed to produce an "isolated sound experience" in venues where using utilizing traditional speakers for multiple exhibits would result in cacophony, such as Boston’s Museum of Science, the Matisse Museum, and even the Bibliotheque National de France. If such a speaker were directed at someone based on information gathered by a camera, the targeted consumer would not have to be standing in a specific location to hear the sound. The use of procedural 3d imagery coupled with a library of prerecorded sound clips could create a realistic simulation of an emotive and reactive human-like avatar.
The inclusion of a wireless internet connection may even allow for identification of the targeted viewer. Imagine if such a lifelike advertising avatar could remember who you were, and even give suggestions based on your shopping habits or web browsing history. Granted, consumer acceptance of such a technology might be difficult, but targeted web advertisements have been doing this for a while now.
Time will only tell how this technology is used, but the possibilities seem quite diverse and exciting. The technology behind neuromarketing may even be the key to an entirely new form of entertainment.
findBIOMETRICS.com Associate Contributor, Shaun Winters