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Technology presented at Google can track billboard viewers

Technology presented at Google can track billboard viewers

Technology presented at Google can track billboard viewers
May 8, 2007

A new technology provides an affordable way for advertisers to track the effectiveness of their advertising by measuring how many people are looking at their billboards and screens.

Unveiled Monday at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, “the portable device uses a camera that monitors eye movements in real time and automatically detects when you are looking at it from up to 10 meters away, without calibration.”

Developed by a Queen’s University Computing professor, eyebox2tm, requires no calibration and costs only a fraction of existing eye-trackers.

“This camera mimics eye contact perception in humans, allowing us to pinpoint quite accurately what plasma screen or product shelf people are looking at,” says Dr. Roel Vertegaal, director of the Human Media Laboratory at Queen’s and inventor of the technology. Vertegaal is also CEO of Xuuk, Inc. a startup company that he formed to commercialize the technology.

Queen’s University says the technology will do for billboards what web analytics software has done for advertising on the Internet.

“While the impact of Internet ads can be measured by the number of hits on a web site, it is much harder to assess the effectiveness of plasma screens that target people in shopping malls, restaurants and other public places,” it said. “The Queen’s invention gives advertisers a tool to accurately measure how much attention something receives, whether on a plasma panel, a billboard, or as the result of its placement on a supermarket shelf.”

“Our technology allows interactive real-time “Flow of Attention” measures of customers in the real world. This allows ambient ads run in malls literally to be sold ‘by the eyeball,” said Vertegaal. “It enables brick-and-mortar stores such as Wal-mart and Sears to use a revenue model similar to Google’s online PageRank and web analytics technologies.”

Vertegaal said that the technology cannot be compared to surveillance.

“It is a passive technology that simply counts how many people have been looking at a particular ad and for how long, just like a door sensor observes whether people might be interested in going through the doorway.”

This article is based on a news release from Queen’s University.

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