Microsoft is Watching You (and Then Changing its Billboard)

Eye.gifMicrosoft had some ClickZ editors feeling that strange shiver of dread run up and down their spines when news filtered back from the Redmond campus and its Third Annual Demo Fest. The event featured technology in the works by Microsoft’s adCenter Labs in Washington and Beijing. And amidst the keyword search APIs and the social video sharing programs, Microsoft also rolled out a 42″ plasma screen attached to a Web camera.

Get ready for the Big Brother and Minority Report segues, because Microsoft’s project called “large display feedback” is being developed as vision-based technology that creates interactive public displays. The displays can determine the size of the audience watching them, as well as the gender and other demographics, and then tweak their display to present a stylized message. The system also tracks gestures to allow interaction with the display directly, and uses 129 facial recognition points to determine gender (although word is it’s still occasionally identifying some male Microsoft engineers as female, but that the bugs are being worked out).

Now, facial recognition systems being used for demographics or security purposes have been around for years to track everything from Nielsen television viewers to possible terrorists in government installations, but somehow the idea of our billboards watching us instead of the other way around just seems a bit… unsettling.

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