Coming Soon: Movie Theaters That Watch You
Because against all odds, there were some corners of the public square where every action was not being sliced and diced and sold to some marketing firm: Movie theater owners are currently experimenting with monitoring technology that allows them to track the audience’s reaction to any given moment during a film, then pass that information along to film studios and ad agencies.
Interestingly, the tech used to do this stems from antipiracy measures already implemented in theaters, such as CCTV cameras that are already covertly being used to monitor many filmgoers. In partnership with the University of the West of England’s Machine Vision Lab, a video surveillance company called Aralia Systems wants to slap emotions analytics software on cameras aimed at audiences, and has already been awarded a £215,000 grant to do so.
“Using 2D and 3D imaging technology we aim to do this in two ways. Obviously cinema audiences are spread out in large theatre settings so we need to build instruments that can capture data for different purposes. We will use 2D cameras to detect emotion but will also collect movement data through a 3D data measurement that will capture the audience as a whole as a texture,” [the Machine Vision Lab’s] Dr. Farooq further explained.
“Within the cinema industry this tool will feed powerful marketing data that will inform film directors, cinema advertisers and cinemas with useful data about what audiences enjoy and what adverts capture the most attention. By measuring emotion and movement film companies and cinema advertising agencies can learn so much from their audiences that will help to inform creativity and strategy,” Dr. Farooq noted.
If this line of research is at all profitable, it seems inevitable that it’ll proliferate; at that, audiences should get some say in how this data is used. While individual audience member opt-outs don’t sound feasible given the broad survey conducted by this technology, audience members should at least get some sort of ticket price reduction for ‘participating’ in this research, no different from any focus group participants, since in effect they’d be giving potentially valuable data to for-profit companies for free. Kinda creepy either way, but what can you do?
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