It occurs to me that in 10 years, Facebook will know what every ex-girlfriend and ex-boyfriend of an entire generation looks like. They already know what millions of people's children look like and obviously have numerous images of almost every person that uses its service.
I was talking with a friend the other day about the fact that people haven't considered the ramifications of Moore's law (define) on real-time image processing. With more powerful computers and the increases in processing power growing more significant in 10 years, many things we think of today as technically impossible or, at the very least, technically difficult will no longer be. Certainly this will impact technologies like targeting and analytics; it will also impact computer graphics. Looking across both of these worlds and their intersection, it's easy to start predicting how this could come together.
It won't be long before the kind of photo and video compositing done painstakingly by hand with lots of CPU horsepower today will be handled in real time on a consumer PC or even on servers in the cloud. This means advertising could be assembled in real time, too. Some companies have been doing this for a while. Visible World, for instance, has enabled creative shops to build template-driven ads that enable elements of the video to be swapped out based on targeting parameters. Near Mother's Day, residents of an affluent neighborhood might see the expensive flower arrangement while residents of a working-class neighborhood see the inexpensive flower one.
But the kinds of things we'll see in the next 10 years will make this seem amateurish and quaint. Imagine the following commercials:
All these commercial seem like science fiction but aren't far-fetched at all. We think about profile-based targeting as dealing with our habits and anonymously delivering products we're interested in. But there's no reason that down the road technology won't enable the situations I just described. And while the privacy implications are vast -- and the ads may seem a bit creepy -- over time they may become acceptable. As we've seen in numerous studies, the current younger generation has very different feelings about privacy than older generations. And opting in to scenarios like I described may be quite commonplace in 10 years.
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December 12, 2013
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