Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Walls Are Watching You--Or They Could Be Soon

Another Minority Report moment, brought to you by Futurismic. Here's what Armchair Anarchist has to say to us today, as he references an article at NewScientist.com, by Tom Simonite:

As if you weren't sick of (or completely immune to) targeted advertising on the internet, the next place it could crop up is on the walls. A UK university is testing a prototype ad screen in a corridor - the screen identifies passers-by via the Bluetooth signals from their mobile devices, and then software agents hold a bidding war in microseconds to decide who gets to display their content. The system will be able to differentiate between different people to ensure no-one sees the same ad twice. I think we just found another good reason to keep the Bluetooth on your phone switched off when you're not using it.
Okay, this is getting kind of creepy. I really love that we're seeing so many technological advances these days, but buildings figuring out who I am by my cell phone or PDA, and pummeling me with ads aimed just at me, is not something that I want to be a part of our brave new world. I suppose it's unavoidable. Advertising Happens. However, this new "wave of the future" is one that I already find irritating, and we haven't even gotten there yet. Apparently, individuals can leave the Bluetooth function off, which would be option number one in my world, if turning it on meant Tide commercials would follow me wherever I go, or worse yet, Pepto Bimol. (Have you ever seen anything more humiliating than the ad campaign with the Pepto Bismol "dance"? A new low in American culture.)

The article suggests that in the future, people will be able to choose to activate the function anonymously, so that the building only recognizes the device, not them. This then would send the ads through, but lets the system know that the device has triggered certain ads before, thus decreasing the chances of repeats. This is the option to use if you like commercials, need variety, but don't mind random content. The other option will be to immerse yourself completely into the Minority Report way of life. You would be able identify yourself, and your profile would let the system know what things interest you, so that everything that comes your way is personally focused--advertising tailored just for you, provided by the highest bidder. This is the option for the marginally insane. Okay, maybe that's hyperbolically harsh, but boy, I'm about as far as I can be from understanding why anyone would intentionally call down the advertising hordes onto their own heads. I really don't have the slightest clue what would make anybody volunteer as an advertising receptacle. It'll be interesting to see how well this kind of thing flies, how many people make themselves available to the ad-osphere. Am I in the majority, or does the rest of the world really long for a Minority Report reality?