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Crazy cyberpunk billboard can sense viewers, target them with specific ads

london billboard recognizes users dsc 3733 final
Image used with permission by copyright holder
When you’re paying top dollar to rent a billboard in one of the biggest cities in the world, you want to know that it’s got the maximum chance of reaching the right eyeballs. With that in mind, Landsec, the U.K.’s biggest listed commercial property company, has just given a futuristic upgrade to its digital advertising space in Piccadilly Circus, one of London’s most famous tourist attractions.

The famous screens have been switched off for much of this year, due to renovation work. During that time, the company has replaced six separate screens which previously occupied the site with one massive 790-square-meter display, offering a resolution that’s better than 4K, and the largest of its kind in Europe.

Amazingly, that’s not the most impressive part, however. In a move straight out of the great 2002 movie Minority Report — in which the central character receives customized ads as he walks through a public space — the billboard will now reflect what’s going on around it. Obviously, personalized ads focused on a single individual won’t work when you’re dealing with a giant billboard in a massive public space, but that has not stopped Landsec from trying.

Cameras hidden in the screen will now be able to track the manufacturer, model, and color of passing cars to trigger targeted ads. That means that companies who rent the billboard will be able to have it identify which vehicles are around and only play ads in response to certain ones. It can also screen ads in response to certain types of weather, or allow users to interact with the screens in real time.

Ultimately, we’ll have to wait until the screen goes live to see what advertisers decide to do with this technology. But it’s definitely an intriguing illustration of the direction giant billboard advertising is going to follow in the coming years, as it races to keep up with the kind of targeted ads users are used to receiving online.

The only question that’s left to answer is whether people who are targeted for custom ads will be flattered or creeped out. We guess a lot will depend on the car you’re driving at the time!

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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