Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Next Generation Targeting Could Be Based on Your Mood

Microsoft's Xbox Kinect is a pretty amazing piece of technology, of that there is no doubt. We've seen people joyously chopping fruit, playing soccer, commanding battalions with only their voices, and even the scary yet incredible tech demo of Milo, featured below. Despite all of these feats, Kinect hasn't even come close to it's full Minority Report style potential. Microsoft opened up a developers kit for people to use on their PCs, but more recently they made public a patent for a new targeted advertising model.

In a patent that has been in the works since 2010, Kinect is going to include software that allows advertising to be delivered based on a complicated calculation of multiple user behaviors. In the future, emails, IMs, and search queries will inform ad choices, but for the immediate future, Xbox users will have advertising served up based on mood. Kinect has the ability to analyze a users facial expressions, body position, and movement at an incredibly fast pace, and that is the capabilities that allow this sci-fi to become reality.

Kinect's motion control capabilities also allow for some other interesting business developments worth a brief mention. The first is for online shopping. Though there haven't been any really great executions yet, Kinect allows users to virtually try on clothes as well as make purchases in a more engaging manner, for example by literally putting them into their cart. Virtual shopping is mediocre for the most part because developers haven't figured out a way to make digital clothing fall naturally over a real body. The second development is simply with the way you interact with ads via motion sensing. You can control a video with your hands, insert your whole body into the advertisement and interact, etc.

Getting back to the mood tracking, there are some concerns I have despite the inherent awesomeness. I question whether Microsoft's technology is subtle enough to track a variety of sentiment or just extremes. For example, just because I'm frustrated with a game or having a bad day I don't want to see ads for anti-depressants. I'm afraid that you'll see tracking of moods like "happiness" or "sadness", generic moods that don't involve as much finesse as something like infatuation, or relaxation does.

I think there might also be a big concern with privacy. People freak out when they find out their general location is being tracked, how will they feel when very personal behaviors and ticks are being tracked. That stuff might slide because it's just damn cool, but when the tech expands to other media, will people want Kinect sorting through keywords in their email, IMs and texts? Probably not.

Despite this, I'm excited to see what Microsoft can do with this. It could allow us marketers to do some really cool new things that make consumers much more excited to interact with brands. We'll keep you updated!

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