Google has used the corporate motto ‘Don’t be evil’ for quite some time now. While some people feel that it no longer has the same ring to it now that Google is tracking users universally across its services like Gmail, Search and YouTube. An article in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal caught my attention. It has to do with anticipating people’s wants and desires. In itself anticipating wants and desires can be somewhat if not entirely cool but I think at the same time it (to me) is also a bit creepy – probably mostly because of my not being quite ready to accept the idea of being watched or tracked.
The article “Big Brother, Now at the Mall” – http://on.wsj.com/QR5iub has to do with facial recognition technology kiosks at malls. The mere mention of Big Brother conjures up creepiness so there’s no doubt about word association at least as far as the author and editor are concerned.
The story discusses that in malls located in Seoul, South Korea there are information kiosks that have a touch screen and two cameras along with a motion detector. ‘As a visitor is recorded, facial-identity software estimates the person’s gender and age. The system’s makers, two companies from South Korea’s SK Holdings Co. conglomerate, plan to allow advertisers to tailor interactive ads on the kiosk by those attributes. A 40-something man looking up a restaurant on the kiosk may be shown an ad for a steakhouse in the mall, while a 20-something woman might get one for a clothing store. Shoppers will be able to interact with the ads with hand motions.’
Do you understand what I mean about being both creepy and yet cool? Delivering relevant content on an individual basis is the direction in which advertising is headed – no surprise there. Melding technology along with human behavior takes a little getting used to but I suspect it will become second nature to digital natives (as opposed to digital immigrants like me). Still I’ve never been happy about being pigeon-holed based on my appearance. I guess you could always wear a mask to the mall if you wanted to throw off the system. I actually might try that – when it gets to the U.S.
I also read a short article on technology that allows your tablet to listen in on your conversation and make relevant search choices to show you more information in real-time based on what subject you are discussing. This is not to say it can be done on the same device, in fact it’s well known that iPhone users cannot search while on a phone call. But serving up real-time relevant content based on actual ongoing conversations? I’d say that’s pretty cool. Is it creepy too?