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Move Over, Minority Report: Personalized Signage is Here

Posted by Sheila Shayon on March 1, 2011 01:00 PM

The Holy Grail for advertisers is coming ever closer - interactive billboards that recognize and target passers-by with custom ads, as imagined and portrayed for the 2002 neo-noir film, Minority Report starring Tom Cruise.

Digital posters that scan face-traffic and change the display when an onlooker’s attention is caught are now appearing in train stations, on bus stops and on the sides of buildings, but remain generic ads for a limited suite of products.

Digital dressing rooms, allowing shoppers to virtually see outfits superimposed on their likeness are already installed as a "look finder" feature in 77kids, the children’s subsidiary of clothing retailer American Eagle Outfitters.

The underlying technology, Radio-Frequency Identification, was developed  by electronics company NEC and is now being researched by Panasonic, Samsung, IBM and others.

RFID employs facial recognition software to determine gender and age and serve up ads that match the demo. The technology, as we've noted, is so sophisticated it can catch the nuance of a frown, a nod, or a raised eyebrow.

In the near future, the technology will match displays to individual profiles on a store-by-store basis and dynamically serve merchandise most relevant to that potential customer.

There's a bigger goal than creating a virtual change room. “What we are trying to do is figure out what your brain is doing. If your eyes are the window into the soul, we're paying attention to what you are paying attention to,” comments Benjamin Palmer, CEO Barbarian Group.

As facial recognition technology becomes more affordable, the monies saved by replacing generally targeted advertising with personalized adverts will be exponential for brands and for the industry at large.

"In Minority Report, the billboards recognise passers-by and play adverts that are specific for the individual. In the film, the billboards rely on scanning the person's eyeball, but we are using RFID technology that people are carrying around with them, so they can have a tailor made message," said Brian Innes, a research scientist at IBM.

R/GA, the digital agency that came up with the two-way in-store signage for American Eagle, says the interactive touchscreens now in 77kids stores allow kids to:

See their reflection in a digital mirror and interact with a make-believe world of animated 77kids-branded characters.

Select key 77kids outfits, which will appear on the user virtually, like a digital paper cutout.

Play DJ and eventually select music to be played in the store.

Pose for photos, which can be customized with personal messages and graffiti and then printed at the checkout area to take home or post in the store.

Swipe 77kids loyalty cards to receive prizes and special offers.

Kids can also interact with a “follow-spot” game that projects 77kids graphics on the store floor. As they try to step on these images, the images move, hide, and reappear.

The in-store experiences are part of R/GA’s custom-built platform that enables the staff at 77kids stores to change and launch new styles, interactive messaging, scanned promotions, campaign elements, and applications according to each retail season.

The only change from the infamous billboard announcement from Minority Report — "John Anderton. You could use a Guinness right about now" — would be to come up with a more age-appropriate greeting for young shoppers.


Dave Haynes United States says:

Sorry but RFID is not the underlying technology for facial recognition. That is biometrics technology and video capture/recording technology. It is also known these days as anonymous video analytics, or AVA.

Where RFID is probably being used here is on price tags or security tags on the clothing, with a reader near the display (looks like there is one at the bottom) picking up the data stored on the tag and then starting the experience.

Also, while the aspects of Minority Report are in many respects possible now, there are HUGE privacy issues that prevent that happen. AVA systems do not store any data on faces it sees and counts and does a, so far, flawed job of padding ages and genders.

The other way that RFID is potentially used is with loyalty cards that might have an RFID tag embedded on it. THAT would allow, potentially, specific messages targeted to individuals, but again there big privacy issues.

Minor note - references to Minority Report are so tired and dubious,

March 1, 2011 10:35 PM #

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March 2, 2011 04:51 AM #

Chris Rubal United States says:

I believe RFID will become more prevalent in many ways. Is anyone else annoyed by QR codes and the effort it takes to read them?  RFID seems to be a better fit as more cell phones come with a reader. As David noted, RFID is employing the facial recognition technology that captures the frowns, nods and other details of the person.  I could be wrong, but I don't think most 12 year olds are carrying around RFID tags with their physical characteristics embedded.  What makes this work is a camera with recognition and tracking technology.

Where I see technology like this taking off is in the home. Microsoft Kinect is only scratching the surface of what that type of technology will do in a few years.  Kinect is a $150 device that has the potential to do exactly what this article described, in your home.  A couple of days later, the outfit shows up in the mail.  This technology already exists and is more than just research, there probably is already a hack that does just this. Aside from letting my kids play with their virtual tigers, Kinect and technology like it holds huge potential in the home.

While this "Minority Report" type technology is definitely cool, I believe there are a lot of issues surrounding the concept, including privacy and cost of development.  And, while Minority Report references still catch my eye, after watching Jeopardy a couple of weeks ago, Terminator references might be more current.  

March 3, 2011 08:58 AM #

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