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Tokyo Rail Billboards Scan Viewer's Age, Gender 235

Posted by timothy
from the to-me-you're-a-14-year-old-girl dept.
eldavojohn writes "The AFP is reporting on digital billboards in Tokyo that scan for a viewer's age and gender to tailor the message to them. It's a Digital Signage Promotion Project that 11 railway companies are debuting. The head of the project said, 'The camera can distinguish a person's sex and approximate age, even if the person only walks by in front of the display, at least if he or she looks at the screen for a second.' Philip K. Dick's Minority Report draws closer every day."
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Tokyo Rail Billboards Scan Viewer's Age, Gender

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  • by Pojut (1027544) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @02:08PM (#32916682) Homepage

    ::pause::

    OK, move along.

  • hmmm (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    waiting for it to call you a female and you are a male...

    • Re:hmmm (Score:5, Funny)

      by Selfbain (624722) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @02:20PM (#32916892)
      If you wanted to be really evil, you could program it to identify socially awkward teens and have it identify them as the opposite gender.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Yvan256 (722131)

        This is Japan we're talking about. Have the system identify all males as tentacle monsters.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Rutefoot (1338385)
        You have no idea how potentially evil these signs can be. The thing is, age is very tough to identify with certainty with this sort of software (gender is really easy). If you want to know someone's age you first have to know something else about them....Their race. Now it's possible that they're only designing these things to measure people of Japanese descent, but if they're not, I'm willing to bet you that they also check for race to calculate age. The technology exists. I know, I've seen it in actio
    • Re:hmmm (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Idbar (1034346) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @03:09PM (#32917706)
      I happens that there may be many people in front of the billboard.

      I'd assume that when the detector cannot discriminate, a general advertisement should come up.

      I could come up with a basic list of what could be shown: Old man: viagra
      Middle age man: sport cars
      Young man: condoms
      Old woman: Body lotion
      Middle age woman: gym equipment or subscriptions
      Young woman: tampons or female hygiene products
      man (unable to discriminate age): cars
      woman (unable to discriminate age): magazine subscriptions
      young (unable to discriminate sex): video games/soda
      middle aged (unable to discriminate sex): banking products
      old (unable to discriminate sex): vacation spots
      unable to discriminate age and sex: consumer electronics/cellphone plans


      Now, group these categories and show something different every time.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by thepotoo (829391)

        OK, TFA has absolutely no details, but I think all it's doing is recording information about the demographic that looks at the billboard, thus allowing the billboard owner to say: "57% of the people looking at this billboard are male, 18-35 years old" and then pick an appropriate ad for the space.

        The issue with this, of course, is that if you have a billboard showing some iteration of rule 34, a certain demographic is going to look, and you'll get the impression that only this demographic looks at ads, and

        • by cmarkn (31706)

          But TFA says nothing about going so far as gathering information on who is actually looking at the billboard, only who is present. That's a pretty significant difference and they don't fall into your positive feedback loop. Also, even if you see that 57% of the audience are male, 18-35, you'd still want to reach out to the rest about 43% of the time.

          • by cmarkn (31706)

            D'oh. Never mind. It does say they have to look at the ad, at least for a second.

  • by sznupi (719324) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @02:10PM (#32916712) Homepage

    Automatic recognition, on a wide scale / network, of young females, in Japan? Oh my...

    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @02:48PM (#32917330)

      Automatic recognition, on a wide scale / network, of young females, in Japan?

      Uh, no. It's not automatic recognition on an individual level beyond age and gender. It won't say "Hey! Yoshiko! You there! Buy some Pocari Sweat!" It might say "Hey! Big group of mostly 20 something guys heading to the business district! How about some Evangelion-themed pachinko after work!"

      It's not going to be a wide scale network, at least I see nothing suggesting it's going to be networked. Which, getting back to the previous point, would be pointless anyway. "Hey! You might be one of the 10 million 15 year old males we saw in Osaka last week! Drink Coke Zero!"

      The "looking at the billboard" is a clue. I think it's just going to try to measure which demographics are looking at which ads, so they can target them better. "This particular location near the line to Akihibara 'electric town' saw a whole lot of 20 to 30 year old males, so that's where the ad for the next Dragon Quest would be most effective. Meanwhile, the exit from the Keio line had mostly elderly people, so lets not pay as much for those locations."

  • by Bicx (1042846) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @02:10PM (#32916724)
    - Escort ads for those who appear middle-aged and alone

    - Diet Services for those who appear overweight

    - Viagra ads for those who appear to have undersized genitals
    • by couchslug (175151)

      - Selective b0m8 detonation

    • by Suki I (1546431)
      This was an idea we had when I helped with a futuristic book series. In the first book most of it got cut, he just went with a mention (I think) that ads along Crystal Drive (Arlington VA) would detect who was walking through their head-mounted computing/communication devices and display an ad, unless the user went to the effort to lock that feature out. Throughout the series there are voyeur cams saturating the industrial world and people run bots on the network and at home to spot people they find attrac
    • - Little mustaches on Hitler, Obama, and Lenin over the word "Socialist" for those who appear to be white
  • Finally (Score:2, Funny)

    by by (1706743) (1706744)
    Something that can determine Pat's gender. [wikipedia.org]
  • Code excerpt:

    Person.setAge(getAgeEstimate());
    Person.setSex(getGender());
    if (Person.age 18 && Person.sex == "F")
          Person.setAge(18); // Giggity giggity

  • OK, too far. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BVis (267028) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @02:13PM (#32916764)

    At what point do we turn to the marketing overlords and say "Fuck you, you don't have a right to know my age or gender, as much as you think you might". Advertising has gone too far already with being microtargeted, someone has to draw the line.

    YOU DON'T HAVE AN INALIENABLE RIGHT TO MARKET TO ME. Make money by doing something useful, not leeching off those who do.

    • Re:OK, too far. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by phantomfive (622387) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @02:20PM (#32916898) Journal
      lol really? I don't understand your unexplained rage at being marketed to. Would it bother you if they instead paid a person to sit out there and write down the gender and approximate age of every person that walked past? Pretty much every person you see throughout the day has this information about you (and a lot more, for example, that you get upset a lot).

      I mean, yeah, it's kind of annoying to get to a web page and there's advertising on it, but the ideal advertising is when you only tell people who are interested in a product about the product. That way you don't have to worry about people who aren't interested, or people who might become homicidal because of it, like you. This just goes one step closer to only giving people advertisement for things they might be interested in.

      Really, don't kill anyone over this.
      • by BVis (267028)

        Would it bother you if they instead paid a person to sit out there and write down the gender and approximate age of every person that walked past?

        Yes, actually, it would. It's none of their business, leave me alone.

        the ideal advertising is when you only tell people who are interested in a product about the product.

        If I'm interested in a product, I don't need to be told about it. If I want to find it, I'll find it, I don't need it thrown in my face constantly like a monkey hitting a typewriter.

        • Yes, actually, it would. It's none of their business, leave me alone.

          You worry about the wrong things, babe. Go put your effort towards something more productive.

        • Re:OK, too far. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by GooberToo (74388) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @03:13PM (#32917778)

          If I'm interested in a product, I don't need to be told about it. If I want to find it, I'll find it

          My head just exploded.

          In general terms, the point of most advertising is to either introduce an unknown or new product to the public or to inform the public of benefits of using said product. As such, if you don't know about a product, how would you know you don't need to be told about it? Which means, you know you don't know so you don't need to know, therefore not knowing means you know enough about it to not need to know. WTF?!

          *Boom* There it went again.

          • by BVis (267028)

            In general terms, the point of most advertising is to either introduce an unknown or new product to the public or to inform the public of benefits of using said product.

            When I find myself in need of a product or service, I am perfectly capable of seeking out said product or service. If you need to tell me about it to convince me that I need it.. I don't need it.

            As such, if you don't know about a product, how would you know you don't need to be told about it?

            I don't need to be told about it if I don't need

            • by GooberToo (74388)

              When I find myself in need of a product or service

              That's the point. Many times, without advertising, you wouldn't know of a product of service and therefore wouldn't know you could seek said product or service.

              *BLAM* There, it happened again!

              • by BVis (267028)

                Many times, without advertising, you wouldn't know of a product of service and therefore wouldn't know you could seek said product or service.

                I'm perfectly capable of typing, for example, "Blue Jeans" into a search engine and reading the result.

                • But how do you know that you wanted "Blue Jeans". You know that because at some point, somewhere, someone marketed them to you. Maybe it was your mom when she bought you some or maybe you just saw a pair at a store and bought them, but you only still know about them because they were advertised to you somehow. Just because the advertising is word of mouth and not a big billboard doesn't mean it isn't still advertising. Of all the things in your life that you need, the only reason you "need" it is becaus
                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by GooberToo (74388)

                  Somehow this simply subject seems to go completely over your head.

                  How about, "black jeans". If you never knew they existed and no one ever told you they existed, its likely it would never occur to you to even search for, "black jeans". Obviously jeans in an all around bad example, but the point is, you insist you know you don't know and therefore since you don't know you know. The fact remains, its impossible to know everything you don't know; especially when you don't know what you don't know.

                  We all agree

                  • Re:OK, too far. (Score:4, Insightful)

                    by cayenne8 (626475) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @04:49PM (#32919252) Homepage Journal
                    Ok, then why do they keep incessantly advertising product that everyone knows about?

                    Coca Cola? McDonald's?

                    It isn't like these aren't already known world wide. Sure, I guess new generations come out...but surely you don't need to advertise them THAT often, that is, if the main reason like you argue, is to inform people of products they might not know about?

                • by BobMcD (601576)

                  Many times, without advertising, you wouldn't know of a product of service and therefore wouldn't know you could seek said product or service.

                  I'm perfectly capable of typing, for example, "Blue Jeans" into a search engine and reading the result.

                  That's a rather excellent example.

                  Why 'Blue'? Denim isn't naturally that color, is it?

                  Why 'Jeans'? Do you typically purchase products from Gênes (France)?

                  The entire reason you're aware that 'blue jeans' are something you'd want is due to the marketing efforts folks like Levi Strauss and Co.

                  Now if you had said 'dungarees' or 'denim trousers', maybe I would have believed you. But this product has already been marketed, and thus is a bad example for your no-marketing world.

            • by treeves (963993)
              The purpose of advertising isn't to inform you of the existence of new products so much as it is to convince you that you *need* the products - you already know they exist - that they will solve some problem you have (or are expected to have) or most often, that they will make you happy, feel better, etc. And to get the name or brand topmost in your mind, so that when you do go buy a new _____, you will choose *that* name, that brand.
              • by GooberToo (74388)

                The purpose of advertising isn't to inform you of the existence

                You entirely missed a very important series of words, "...in general terms...". Good advertising does both. Classic examples are all those medication commercials where they not only tell you of medication you very likely didn't know existed, they tell you its medication for problems you likely didn't even know was a problem. Then they convince you, of all possible treatments for your problem, their medication is the one you want - so go tell your doctor.

            • by EdIII (1114411)

              You're not alone. They just don't get it. I think I could explain it a little bit better, but I completely understand your frustration and your rage is not unjustified, or unexplained.

              I may not be willing to kill, but I am perfectly willing to destroy the infrastructure doing this. Perfectly Willing To Do So.

              Advertising is an unacceptable offense against our intellect and common decency. There is nothing honest, sincere, or productive about it and as a species we will be better off without it.

              Taking it t

          • Re:OK, too far. (Score:4, Informative)

            by Arcaeris (311424) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @04:28PM (#32918948)

            In general terms, the point of most advertising is to either introduce an unknown or new product to the public or to inform the public of benefits of using said product.

            Maybe if it was 1880. The idea that "giving consumers information about a product makes them buy more of it" is easily the least effective and most simplistic type of marketing. This is sometimes combined with more advanced forms, but is often left out.

            Modern marketing theory has its roots in the 1920s and Edward Bernays. At its core it is about associating a product with a person's desires at a subconscious level. It has long since gone much deeper and more manipulatively past this. Look up "Century of the Self" if you want a good account of what really went into forming modern marketing strategy.

            Look at recent Corona ads or Dos Equis ads for examples of where this has gone these days. The ads have almost nothing to do with the beer they are trying to sell, and no information at all about the product. Yet it is still very effective advertising.

        • If I'm interested in a product, I don't need to be told about it.

          Duh.

          If I want to find it, I'll find it,

          Assuming you are somewhat competent, sure.

          But what about a product you would be interested in, should you know about it? Something that you would seek out, if you knew it existed? How do you find out about it? Word of mouth? But then you're just moving the burden of being advertised to onto your friends.

          I've seen people, for instance, advertising their hobby groups. It never would have occurred to

    • At what point do we turn to the marketing overlords...

      I don't know. At what point do you?

      Every person is going to see this question differently. If you really have that much of a problem with who is marketing something to you just write to them and say "I love your product but your advertising method gives me the chills. I won't be buying from you again until you amend your ways." Then: STICK TO IT! Boycotts don't work unless companies lose profits because of it.

      If enough people agree and follow your le
    • Re:OK, too far. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by commodore64_love (1445365) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @02:35PM (#32917144) Journal

      >>>YOU DON'T HAVE AN INALIENABLE RIGHT TO MARKET TO ME

      Yes actually I do. It's my mouth and if I want to stand on a street corner and market my "the world is ending" speech all day long, I can. If you don't like it, move to a different part of the public street or only frequent private areas (like malls) where I can not enter.

       

      • by Dishevel (1105119)
        Not only that but I can identify your approximate age and your gender. Then I can approximate income level by your clothing and accessories and begin to tailor my "the world is ending" speech to have more effect on my audience.
        • Not only that but I can identify your approximate age and your gender. Then I can approximate income level by your clothing and accessories and begin to tailor my "the world is ending" speech to have more effect on my audience.

          And do it from 5000 different sites 24/7 and collect the data to determine if certain groups congregate at certain locations at specific points in the day! And try similar messages at nearby locations to see which has the most positive response and then sell that information to maximize profit!

          Oh, wait, you can't do that.

      • by BVis (267028)

        Your analogy is flawed. If you ride the Tokyo rail system, essentially you are a captive audience for this kind of surveillance. And if some lunatic is ranting about the end of the world on the street in front of my place of business, I can't exactly avoid them either.

      • Oh, please tell me you're not that guy...
    • Advertising has gone too far already with being microtargeted, someone has to draw the line.

      Try to look at the upside; do you really want to watch ads for feminine hygiene products?

      • by BVis (267028)

        Try to look at the upside; do you really want to watch ads for feminine hygiene products?

        I don't want to see ANY ads. Period. I don't want to be marketed to. At all. Nobody has a RIGHT to market to me if I don't want it.

        • by BobMcD (601576)

          Nobody has a RIGHT to (speak) to me if I don't want it.

          I disagree. Vehemently.

    • by N0Man74 (1620447)

      Is this any different than hiring a real person to try to drum up business for an establishment, who can (as a human being) recognize things like race, gender, and age and give different pitches to members of different demographics?

      Why is it ok for a human to do it, but not a machine?

      Now if it's programed to identify specific individuals and track or reference data on you in order to target you, then I could see you getting upset... then we're moving into Amazon and Google territory!

      • by BVis (267028)

        Why is it ok for a human to do it, but not a machine?

        It isn't ok. If your product or service isn't good enough to attract customers on its own, then You're Doing It Wrong. Good products sell themselves, they don't need shithead MBAs who can't tie their own shoes to tell the great unwashed what they want.

        • by BobMcD (601576)

          Why is it ok for a human to do it, but not a machine?

          It isn't ok. If your product or service isn't good enough to attract customers on its own, then You're Doing It Wrong. Good products sell themselves, they don't need shithead MBAs who can't tie their own shoes to tell the great unwashed what they want.

          Or, perhaps...

          If your (idea) isn't good enough to attract (followers) on its own, then You're Doing It Wrong.

          Communication is an understated thing in your world, it seems. Imagine the difficulty in spreading your anti-marketing idea if you were forbidden to discuss it with anyone. Further imagine opening a new business in a strip mall down town and being forbidden to advertise on the radio, pass out flyers, or even hang a sign out front. How long are you in business?

    • by Gulthek (12570)

      Never?

      Oh no! A company is trying to let me know about a product it sells!

      Oh no! A company is trying to target it's advertising so that I'm not bored with useless ads!

      The horror?

      • by BVis (267028)

        Oh no! A company is trying to target it's advertising so that I'm not bored with useless ads!

        They don't have the right to exploit my privacy to do so. THAT is what I have trouble with here. All I want is to be able to walk down the street (ride the train, etc) without someone trying to sell me something. What the hell has happened to the world where that's not possible anymore?

    • by Blakey Rat (99501)

      At what point do we turn to the marketing overlords and say "Fuck you, you don't have a right to know my age or gender, as much as you think you might".

      A train station is a public location, *everybody* there has a right to look at you and guess your age and gender.

      If you don't like that, you can start wearing a burqa everywhere you go. But guess what? It's a right in our (and Japan's) society, and one that is not going to be taken away no matter how paranoid you happen to be.

      Advertising has gone too far alr

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 15, 2010 @02:18PM (#32916848)

    The commercial eye-scanners were all Spielberg.

  • Remember those sequences in Spielberg's take on 'Minority Report' in which advertisements would actually call out names of passers-by or customers entering shops - how that would work with groups of people (or whether it would just default to a generic pitch) I do not know. The technology around this sort of thing looks pretty attainable by 2052 which was the year that movie was set. Same as a few other things in the film. Infact it seemed quite a prudent take on the future except for all the precognition s

    • Remember those sequences in Spielberg's take on 'Minority Report' in which advertisements would actually call out names of passers-by or customers entering shops - how that would work with groups of people (or whether it would just default to a generic pitch) I do not know.

      Person with the highest probability to buy the product being advertised. Factor in disposable income, interests, gullability factor, and so on to come up with a number from 0 to 1 for each person. Choose the highest. Of course, playing on group dynamics would also be neat if you can determine that some the members of the group know each other.

  • ...and welcome back to the GAP!"

    I keep wondering why Minority Report type advertising (esp. in-store) isn't here yet despite advancements in face recognition. Plant an innocuous camera at the checkout, and cross-link data from the credit card (your name is on there). Next time you walk in, an animation on a prominently positioned HDTV or projection display greets you by name, and a clerk can sidle up offering help & suggestions based on your buying history.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Because it would creep too many people out and drive them away from the store.

    • by kent_eh (543303)

      ...and welcome back to the GAP!"

      I keep wondering why Minority Report type advertising (esp. in-store) isn't here yet

      Maybe because customers would generally be freaked out, and not come back?

  • ...Just gasped in his grave.

  • And this computer agrees with me, so you scientifically look like a girl

  • Y'know, I don't know about the rest of you, but for me the harder they try to get me to buy stupid shit the more I feel that I don't want to buy things advertised in mass media.

    I see these billboards as a giant warning sign of what NOT to buy. If I fall into some assumed demographic and I don't already have the product I likely don't need it anyway.

  • by vlueboy (1799360) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @02:30PM (#32917054)

    So this tech will not work against two types of foes:
    Muslim women with only their eyes exposed
    Those of us who will see these billboards everywhere in 30 years and start dressing lie ninjas in public.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by decipher_saint (72686)

      Need Ninja supplies? Why not stop off at Goemon's One Stop Ninja Shop for all your Ninja needs! ...

      Hey ladies, tired of targeted advertising? C'mon down to The Burqa Boutique, we've got the latest fashions just time in summer, all in the new classic; black! ...

      A new life awaits you in the Off-World colonies!

    • Ostensibly to protect women from repression, some western countries are banning burkas. If you examine the politicians' funding sources, however, you will see that advertisers and pirates are intended to be the real beneficiaries.
  • by GreyWolf3000 (468618) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @02:44PM (#32917280) Journal

    ... you're giving them ideas!

    • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @03:04PM (#32917618) Journal

      ... you're giving them ideas!

      The whole point of *good* science fiction is to issue a warning to the world about what will happen to us all if we don't act now to stop whatever issue the writer is writing about. Scifi that presents a good future is escapism. Scifi that extrapolates our current trends and demonstrates the catastrophe that will ensue, is great literature, and from the standpoint of its potential worth to our culture, it's probably the greatest literature we have.

      • Whoosh.

        Imagine a dystopic future where the cruel masterminds that rule our society steal ideas from science fiction writers to aid them in their domination of mankind.

  • We can't be very far away from having ads on cable TV that greet you by name and act like they know you.

    Hi Bob,

    As a 47-year-old married guy with two teen-agers who is having trouble paying his bills, we don't want to make you feel worse by showing you ads for products you can't afford, like new cars. We show those ads to Dave, next door. What you need is ... Pepto-Bismol, and maybe some antidepressants, right?

    Oh, hell. Maybe they are doing that and I haven't caught on yet.

    • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @03:02PM (#32917572)

      As a 47-year-old married guy with two teen-agers who is having trouble paying his bills, we don't want to make you feel worse by showing you ads for products you can't afford, like new cars. We show those ads to Dave, next door. What you need is ... Pepto-Bismol, and maybe some antidepressants, right?

      "Money problems? Did you know there are places in this world that will buy your children? Press "9" on your television remote for further details."

  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @02:56PM (#32917444)

    "Hello [scanning] sir."

    "Now that you are [scanning] in the prime of middle age, couldn't you see yourself in a brand new Generic Sport Sedan From GeneriCo?"

    "Yes, sir, approach this kiosk, and I will display the many features of the Boring Oval Shaped Sedan 300Q"

    "It is not necessary for you to hold a [scanning] metal pipe to view this ad."

    "Neither is it necessary for you to [bzzzt] strike this kiosk with the [blargle] metal pipe."

    "Please [buzz] stop [skree] hitting [roar] me, [bzzzzrrrzzzzzzzzzz] sir"

    "[zzzzz] maintenance required [skttttttktktktk] please [bzzzzz] Daisy daisy [zzzzzz] rosebud"

    "sssssssssss boop!"

    (blessed silence)

  • Thankfully, the Japanese have given us a solution - namely, 1 watt blue laser diodes.

    And Wicked Lasers has made them portable.

    Burn out all cameras
    For Great Justice!

  • by Kizeh (71312) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @03:04PM (#32917608)

    And this is different from signs with the same capability that have been in US Malls for a good while only in that they're actually actively acting on the info, whereas the US marketers, AFAIK, only so far use it to analyze who is viewing their ads and for how long. Next time you're out and about the mall, look for the small camera on top of the ad. They're out there/

  • all of a sudden I'm all in favour of being able to wear a Burkha in public... in order to preserve my anomynity!!! fsck the French and their anti-burkha law... and fsck the British parliament as apparently all of a sudden their in favour of an anti face covering law,,,
  • Every time I hear about this my interest is piqued. I've been taking estrogen for almost a decade now, but that was after my skeletal structure was permanently changed by testosterone before I found a doctor who was willing to treat my androgen problem (instead of assuming that more testosterone = GOOD yay testosterone. maybe for some, but not for me.)

    Basically, I have a mix of male and female features. On some days guys hit on me because they think I'm cute and like my hair, and on other days females

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