The dream or the nightmare? Interactive advertising that follows you..

Two new gesture-sensing innovations designed for large electronic screens in public places  are at the cutting edge of a future in which everything from street art to advertisements will track your movements, be fully interactive, and virtually impossible to ignore.

‘In the future all surfaces in urban areas could be interactive displays,” says Robert Walter a researcher at the Technical University of Berlin (TUB) in Germany. “This presents great opportunities and challenges as it will need to be attractive and work in an intelligent way.”

The researchers from TUB will reveal their first two street-smart applications – StrikeAPose and Screenfinity – next month at the CHI conference in Paris, France.  Flat-screen technology and a clever use of depth-sensing Kinect cameras are at the technological forefront of this breakthrough in interactive displays. The researchers believe that though advertising will be the first to adopt this technology, non-commercial apps will also appear – courtesy of artists or poets, perhaps. The rapidly falling price of organic LED screens means that LED screens tens of metres long could soon line urban corridors. While at home we will soon be able to cover whole living-room walls with screens like wallpaper.

The researchers at TUB have developed two kinds of interactive displays for outdoor screens; the first ‘StrikeAPose’ lets a person in the street perform a unique gesture to take control of a screen, which could be anything in size from a bus-shelter advert screen to a huge, Times-Square-style video wall. Once you are recognised as the screen controller, software fed by the depth cameras used in Microsoft’s Kinect system lets you control the screen’s content for example in a gesture based game.

The second, Screenfinity, generates content for large, long screens that track and follow the viewer as they walk along beside it. The system uses 10 Kinect cameras placed along the length of a screen to monitor passers-by. As someone approaches, text or pictures pop up and slide along in sync with their walking. If that person moves further away, the text gets bigger; closer, and it gets smaller, so it is equally legible all the time. In the first trial of the display it proved so attention-grabbing that passers by stopped to look behind the screen to see if a person was operating the tracking. Screenfinity would be well suited to organisations such as the London Underground as it would allow ads to move down the escalators, tethered to specific commuters.

Creative use of these type of displays has the potential to completely rethink and redesign the cityscape as we know it leading to urban surroundings previously only imagined in science fiction. Interactivity is without doubt the way of the future but will there be an interactive ‘off’ button option too we wonder?

Source: The New Scientist

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