Just when you thought you'd seen it all, something new comes along that makes your mind go all wobbly around the edges. And what has put me in this contemplative mood? Well…
…as a starting point, let's take American football games as presented on television. In the not-so-distant past, all we could hope to see on the screen was the field, the players and referees, and the ball. By comparison, these days we are also presented with an imaginary yellow line superimposed on the image reflecting the targeted first down, and this is accompanied by an imaginary blue line to mark the line of scrimmage.
This is actually really clever — the way they arrange it so that these lines seem to be painted on the field and they don’t appear in front of any of the players and suchlike takes an incredible amount of technology and computing power.
Next, let's consider the fact that people have all sorts of ways to avoid watching adverts. The simplest is to get up and make a cup of tea or visit the restroom when an advert comes on the screen. Alternatively, you can pre-record the program and then fast-forward through the adverts. Or you might access an on-demand version of the program stripped of any adverts. As you can imagine, this doesn’t exactly cheer the advertising agencies up at all.
One way around this from the advertising point of view is to move the adverts into the television show or movie itself. This form of advertising, known as product placement , can be quite subtle. A character may open a fridge, for example, and you as a viewer don’t realize that different companies have paid for the various items that appear on the shelves. Or a character may be walking down a street, and you don’t register that someone has paid for a particular advertising poster to be mounted on the wall. And when the character gets into a car… well, I think you get my drift.
The reason I'm waffling on about this here is that I'm currently visiting the UK and I've just seen the most amazing demonstration of next-generation advertising technology. This is similar to the yellow and blue lines being superimposed on an American football game on TV, except that it involves integrating products into TV shows and movies.
Take the examples I presented earlier — now the director can add computer-generated items into the fridge, or computer-generated posters on a wall, or computer-generated cars at the side of a street, and so forth. Why is this better than simply using real objects for product placement? Well, the thing is that you can change the objects depending on the target market.
Suppose someone is holding a soft drink can in their hands, for example. Now, the actual soft drink seen by the viewer can vary depending on the country in which the media is being presented. Or take the advertising poster shown on a wall. Maybe this reflects a film that is currently making the rounds and, once again, this could be swapped out depending on the location in which the program is being shown.
The thing that really grabbed my attention was the possibility of this technology being applied at a much finer resolution. I can envisage a not-too-distant future in which everyone who is watching a program on television in the comfort of their own homes sees different advertising objects seamlessly interwoven into the scene.
And, now I come to think about it, this all circles back to the concepts of embedded vision and embedded speech. Suppose your next-generation TV set comes equipped with embedded vision capabilities. Now suppose that, over time, the TV observes the fact that you enjoy the occasional Coca-Cola, your wife is partial to the odd Dr Pepper, and your son quaffs more cans of Mountain Dew than are good for him. Based on the combination of embedded vision and dynamic advertising, it may be that the beverage being consumed in a program varies depending on which of you is watching that program at any particular time!
In fact, thinking about it, a character in a film may end up drinking a cup of coffee or a cup of hot chocolate depending on whether you are watching the program in the morning or evening. Hmmm, we certainly do live in interesting times. I keep on thinking of all sorts of different deployment scenarios for this technology — what's your take on all of this?