Japan Tests Billboards That Know Your Age, Gender

Marketing agencies in Japan are taking technology one huge step further. They are testing billboards which can tell the sex and age of the person standing in front of it.

It had been reported about a year ago that billboards that could tell whether the face in front of it was male or female were being developed. This project is now being tested at subway stations in Tokyo.

NEC is developing a facial recognition system that will be inserted into these billboards. A pilot project has been undertaken by 11 railway companies and it will run for a year. They will set up 27 such billboards in total.

The Digital Signage Promotion Project, which is running this project, says that the billboards contain a camera that can determine the approximate age and sex of a person standing in front of it for a minimum of 1 second. The longer the person stands in front of it, the more accurate the data available is. The information is then relayed to an internal computer, which will pick appropriate ads to display to that person.

This system is called the Next Generation Digital Signage Solution. The project aims to collect data about the type of people most likely to stand in front of billboards and then show ads in accordance with the data available.

For instance, young women may be shown ads about cosmetics or designer apparel; whereas elderly women may be shown ads for household and kitchen equipment and men may be shown ads about sporting goods. This project is meant to help marketers and advertisers reach their target audience.

IBM’s Smarter Planet campaign developed an interactive billboard that provided a simple and engaging virtual demonstration of how a smarter retail system can work. The video below shows this “smart” billboard in action:

Color Sensitive Interactive Billboard from IBM Smart Planet

One big problem that the project currently being tested in Japan is definitely bound to face in the West concerns user privacy. Officials of the Digital Signage Promotion Project have said that the images of users will not be stored in the computers.

This innovation could very well be an example of real life being inspired by reel life. The film Minority Report had shown billboards that could similarly recognise people by name and then shout suggestions about which products they should buy!

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