You walk into a mall and you see an advertisement on the screen that couldn’t be more personalised. It feels like it is talking to you directly, as if it knows you. These attract the audience. We look at these with awe. Personal advertising aims to do this. A clever marketing strategy, it is developed as the result of an innovative facial recognition technology by Northeastern University’s Art and Design department. This is the brainchild of W. Russel Pensyl, professor and the chair of the department.
This technology identifies a person’s outward attributes by scanning their faces and using a library of comparable images to come to a conclusion. It looks at someone’s skin colour, hair, the fashion statement they are making, the emotions they are displaying, etc. They use this to show them a personalised advertisement. From their gender to the person’s approximate age, there is no hiding away of any external attributes from this software. However, a privacy concern that can be immediately raised is the collection of data. Of course, nobody wants some random machine in the mall to store their personal details. That is where Pensyl’s technology proves itself to be a genius.
If there is no one in front of the screen, there is nothing that can be collected. Hence, no collection of data happens. With no collection, there is no storage. In short, the information collected is used only for the then and now. Once the person has moved ahead from the screen, the screen moves on to the next individual with no information of the previous person stored in it.
“If this thing has commercial success, that’s great. But as an artist and designer, I’m also interested in how to build cultural artifacts on top of the systems,” he said.
– N Malavika Mohan