By Anh Ta
When we hear or read the words “perceptive media,” we imagine media portrayed in sci-fi movies, like “Minority Report,” where ads address characters by name as they move past them. But these are no more exotic than highly advanced targeted ads.
Perceptive media is a relatively new concept of responsive content, usually digital, which acts upon the behavior of the individual within their natural environment.
Hence, what we really mean by perceptive media is intuitive media.
Intuitive: Using or based on what one feels to be true even without conscious reasoning.
If this is our expectation for media, that it feels true even without conscious reasoning, then we are on the verge of having that expectation realized. The elements for perceptive media are being used today, and what it takes to realize perceptive media as intuitive is for those elements to come together to create experiences.
Targeted, But Unperceptive
Media are becoming more targeted and personalized as data about users grow more immense and rich. Collecting information about our mobile and connected activities allows us to target a user more directly.
- Retargeted ads that follow us on our sojourns across the Internet are ubiquitous.
Mobile apps give us nearby weather as we check in to our favorite locations.
Brands use Facebook Connect to create individualized, customized content. Intel’s “Me The Musical” creates an online musical that draws its content from the activities of a user’s Facebook profile.
- A recent BBC R&D effort called “Breaking Out,” an Internet audio play (a radio story format) that adjusts narrative to reflect individual users’ weather, date and active social networks, is a rudimentary effort in making truly unique responsive content.
Targeting online is mostly innocuous, sometimes annoying and, for the paranoid, slightly creepy. But ad targeting in the mobile space is usually welcomed by users as valuable. Most of us appreciate being offered a deal when and where we find them most relevant, and mobile executes this service better than online or traditional media. Knowing where we physically are is information that has implications beyond building better maps.
Google Maps is more than a mapping project – it’s essential data for social-predictive algorithms. Mapping a location is a prelude to mapping a person. Google already personalizes search based on knowledge of the user’s online activity. Once the data giant (no one really calls Google a search giant anymore, do they?) can incorporate social activity and offline activity into the mix, personalization and targeting of content within mobile will be delivered with eerily accurate precision.
The Perceptive Horizon
True personalization – when media is not just a content bullet shot at a specific target, but upon arrival can respond in real time to the user’s interaction with it – is still beyond the horizon. But we can definitely see perceptive media’s sail tip as the ship comes to shore.
But the kind of media that literally speak to/with us, which are intuitive to our responses, are possible and can be here tomorrow.
True perceptive media require: the ability to know where we are, the details of our lives and vast processing power. The first two criteria are currently in use. The processing power to generate truly perceptive media takes more imagination than engineering.
Researchers in Britain have developed an algorithm that can predict where a smartphone user will be 24 hours from the present and within 20 feet. The algorithm uses tracking data from the user’s phone and the user’s friends’ tracking data. Most people follow fairly consistent patterns, so by correlating the pattern of a user with the patterns of a user’s friends, the algorithm can predict where a person will be and when. For businesses, an algorithm that can serve a promotion when and where a customer most likely will use it fulfills the promise of truly targeted, personalized marketing.
But it’s still not truly perceptive.
Ultimately, perceptive media need to be able to adjust on the fly to user responses. This requires processing power. And energy. Current outdoor media are incapable of providing the necessary load for either. Billboards are dumb, but smartphones are smart. And they can network with each other, thereby increasing total processing power indefinitely depending on how many users are gathered in a spot.
CrowdOptic, a mobile technology company, has developed a way for smartphones to be able to detect each other and work together to provide users with richer experiences for events. The technology enables a smartphone to detect when other smartphones are being pointed in the same direction by a crowd at live events and then auto-curates the images, videos and social media to give an individual user the most relevant crowd-sourced content.
Imagine you’re at a concert and you can’t see the performer because of a structural obstacle, like a column or a wall; you can use the CrowdOptic technology to access points of view from other smartphones that do have direct lines of sight to the action and watch it on your smartphone screen. CrowdOptic knows where the action is based on the multiple smartphones’ lines of sight converging on one spot.
The additional benefit of this sort of technology is that it takes advantage of existing user behavior. We’ve all been conditioned to use our mobile devices to record events. There is no user education necessary, which is often a hurdle for innovative technology. The CrowdOptic technology runs in the background and builds a layer of value-added experience for those interested in the event, who might or might not be in attendance.
The real power of hypertargeting is the potential to determine context. With technology that can sense the proximity of other similar technologies, knowing exactly where a person, or consumer, is at the moment is much less important than the context of their location. Who is nearby, the space they’re sharing and what they are doing in coordination with one another provide the context within which meaningful media can make connections. A piece of perceptive media would be able to react to changing audiences in real time and literally create content within the context of that moment, space and audience.
Imagine a scenario where the mobile devices of all the attendees at a sporting event work in coordination to produce a singular experience for that event. A typical NFL stadium holds well over 50,000 spectators. Now, let’s say those 50,000 attendees all have a smartphone on their person. Imagine all of those smartphones networking to create a piece of video, on the fly, that appears on the stadium’s giant flat screen while the game is being played, tailored to the aggregated social graph of all 50,000. Maybe the video features images culled directly from the fans’ smartphones captured during the game, and a digital cheerleader encourages the home team fans to get excited and addresses individual fans by name using lifelike language, targeting the most passionate of them to rouse nearby fans.
The difference between this and the ads as seen in movies that call out to us is that in the one from the movie, the ad is hyperlocalized and targeted, whereas in our example, the content is locally generated and responsive.
Insights for Marketers
It’s clear the world is shifting to mobile for its information needs. Every recent study of technology and media use indicates a trend of fast-growing mobile infiltration. Mobile ads are currently in an incipient stage of hyperlocal and in-app messaging. The next step toward a truly perceptive media requires content providers to fully utilize the processing capabilities of our very powerful mobile computing devices.
The expectation of media that interact with a user in the user’s physical space and react to the user’s responses will soon bear fruit. Until it does, marketers can prepare for the perceptive media environment by reframing media in a new light.
Marketers need to continue to:
- Explore opportunities in the social graph of users to build media that take advantage of predictive analyses to forecast users’ behavior.
- Challenge the limits of mobile processing and networking capabilities by understanding that “mobile” is not a single device used by a person on the move, but an ecosystem of devices that interact with each other.
- Take advantage of the vast amounts of geo-location data beyond targeting to build experiences, rather than ads, that take advantage of not just location but space – which means the history of a location as well as the mind “space” of the user. For example, Coca-Cola sends a truck filled with ice-cold soda to a location where people are congregating on a hot summer day. Mobile data ties in weather conditions with information that tells the company when a critical mass of people is clustered.