3M’s new VAS service helps creators optimize video content

October 20, 2011 by Dave Haynes

3M is starting to make some noise again in the digital signage space – the latest being the development and release of technology that can analyze and now video to predict how consumers will look at messaging, and them optimize them.

The product is called Visual Attention Service (VAS), and the proposition is that a scanning tool can be used by marketers and their creative teams to develop heatmaps on what people will look at more than anything else, instead of using eye-tracking hardware and software to do that after the material is produced.

Used to increase the probability that viewers will notice the most desired elements of a design or physical location, says a news release today, 3M VAS enhances the visual impact of professional design across advertising, marketing, and all forms of digital and print media. Built upon decades of research on how consumers react to various visuals, 3M VAS marries deep vision science with cutting edge technology.

Previously offered only for still images, 3M VAS can now analyze video to illustrate how people are most likely to visually interact with any scene or setting, and identify where the average human eye will focus at any given moment. The software analyzes images, graphical and text elements of digital and print content through a series of algorithms that process important visual cues, such as colors, edges, faces, shapes and contrast.

“The ability to analyze video exponentially increases the applications for VAS, and really opens up a whole new world of possibilities,” said Bill Smyth, business manager, 3M Digital Out of Home. “From infomercials to product placement in films, to point-of-sale displays and in-store signage, VAS with video offers marketers a level of accessibility to deep consumer insights that simply didn’t exist before.”

I think it is interesting that 3M now has a distinct “Digital Out Of Home” business group.

The product is very different from other video analytics, which are more about developing an understanding how many people look at screens, roughly who they are (male/female percentages), and how long they look. Companies like Intel do heat-mapping, but that’s more about where people travel around a venue.

3M is currently offering VAS video analysis as a consulting service. Customers will receive a prescriptive heatmap that travels on top of the video, with a traveling fixation indicator layered on top of the heatmap.

“We see VAS with video as particularly valuable to those looking to predict consumers’ visual journey in retail environments, and how that journey plays into the path to purchase,” said Kelly Canavan, marketing manager, 3M Commercial Graphics . “VAS with video also excels in helping marketers and advertisers to stand out and meet their visual goals in the crowded universe of rich media and online video.”

Version 4.0 also features significant upgrades to VAS still image analysis, including a valuable sequencing feature that demonstrates not only where the human eye is most likely to pay attention in the first few seconds of viewing an image, but the sequence of those fixation points as well. Also new are customized setting options for direct mail/email and in-store contexts, which automatically take into account how human vision interacts with different viewing circumstances.

The VAS product was first released last year – the video support is the big new thing – and 3M says VAS has already been used by several thousand customers. I assume that is on the large-format printing sideof 3M’s business, which is very large. 3M does $27 billion in sales and has 80,000 people worldwide.

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