According to TechCrunch recently, SoftKinetic has developed a new way for advertisers to deliver their messages. The new technology would personalize advertisements, targeting individuals in public spaces. People would approach a display equipped with SoftKinetic’s 3D camera and gesture with their arms and body. The movement allows the person to interact with the display. The person’s age and gender are identified using Intel’s analytic capabilities.
For those concerned about privacy, Virgile Delporte, SoftKinetic’s vice president of marketing and communications, stated,
“Only statistical information will be stored, and this anonymous data will be shared in the cloud to provide real-time data to the advertisers, who can easily test different advertising scenarios. Think about the way web advertising is managed today. Combined with 3D imaging analysis, the data will get even more accurate.”
Basically, the technology uses an interface similar to Microsoft’s Kinect to bring us advertisements based on gender and age stereotypes. Delporte offered an example:
“A young woman might walk up to SoftKinetic-equipped display at an airport, and she could browse information about nearby malls and fashion-related shops. If the viewer was an older man, they might see an ad for a nearby cigar shop.”
I am a female in her thirties. I imagine the ads targeted at me will be about shoes, jewelry, and clothes. Will any of these ads interest me? No, not really. I am a geek. If I am going to spend a lot of money on a shiny object, it will be electronic and have an Apple logo. I am also a gamer. I haven’t purchased a new pair of shoes in over a year. Why? First, I don’t need a new pair; and second, I spend that money on games. The only way to actually personalize advertisements is to tap into personal data, which I, and many, will consider to be an invasion of privacy. I understand advertisers are trying to find new ways to reach people because technology like the DVR has given consumers methods to avoid commercials, but investing funds in a system that most people will probably find cumbersome or impractical seems like a way to waste money instead of make money. If I need information about local shops, I will use the Google app on my iPhone.
Also, I am not convinced a gesture-controlled interface is the most effective method to use in public. A new Kinect-only game called ‘Double Fine Happy Action Theater’ will be released soon. People are impressed with the game because it can support six players (most Kinect games only support two). I’ve been in an airport, and most airports have more than six people. What will happen if a crowd surrounds a display? I think a lot of bumping will occur because everyone has to swing their arms and move their bodies. Also, will the system be able to handle a crowd or will the crowd make the system overload and crash? There are a lot of questions and variables that would need to be resolved before this technology could be reliable and practical for this intended use.
Currently, there are no customers for SoftKinetic’s technology. Below is a video of the technology being demonstrated at Yahoo.