Tech Blog Declares The Minority Report Moment Is Here (It’s Not)

January 19, 2012 by Dave Haynes

In what is an almost epic reach, Mashable is describing a trade show-bait thing put together by Razorfish and Microsoft, for NRF this week, as the arrival, finally, of that big, frighteningly invasive moment in the flick Minority Report when ad screens start beckoning Tom Cruise to engage and buy.

This isn’t even close, and it’s not all that creepy, which is also suggested.

Remember that scene in Minority Report where Tom Cruise walks into a store and a cheery face on a video screen turns to him and asks how those assorted tank tops worked out for him? The tech isn’t just fantasy anymore — it’s here and now, thanks to Microsoft.

Hooking up the just-announced Kinect for Windows sensor with a software package from Razorfish, Microsoft has created an interactive storefront, which the company unveiled at a retail trade show in New York City. The setup lets passers-by interact with the store display and even use their smartphones to access store catalogs and shop.

It goes like this: The store window has a TV behind it hooked up to a Kinect. The moment someone walks by the display and into the Kinect’s field of view, the display reacts to grab their attention. Once in front of the screen, they can gesture to call up items they’re interested in, swipe through inventory, or interact with the models, depending on the precise software setup.

When you get your smartphone involved, it’s even more interesting. The screen displays a QR code in the top corner, which will hook the phone up with an HTML5 app built for the store. Then the user can walk away and shop whenever he or she wants, and even use it with Microsoft Surface tables inside, if the store has them.

Microsoft’s obviously catering to retailers here, but how do you feel as a customer? Do you think an interactive ad is fun and exciting? Or is it just creepy? Give us your take in the comments.

OK, first, get some working microphones. And then someone who can demo the thing properly.

The Razorfish guys are hardly dummies and there are things to like about this at a conceptual level. They also don’t use the reference in their press about this retail experience project. But it is not much more than a Kinect triggering content instead of a motion sensor or other mechanical switch. Whether people really would stop and engage will depend heavily on the content experience and the reward for engaging. My safe guess is most people in a mall or on a street would just fly on by.

There is nothing – apart from the gestures which are now very commonplace – to suggest this is the privacy-threatened ad world of Minority Report. In technology advertising, that phrases is taking on the same unibrow thinking of all those TV journalists who attach “Gate” to absolutely anything scandalous, somehow concluding they’re being clever.

Just stop. When a company does actually cross the privacy line, we’ll all be so tired of the reference we’ll just skip on by.

Like Mashable generally, but this is a lazy, dim-witted effort, at best.

  1. Ken Goldberg says:

    Actually, Wipro had a robot that was far cooler and perhaps creepier…. but very slick.

  2. Arlene Zeichner says:

    John Underkoffler to Keynote Digital Signage Expo 2012
    Underkoffler best known for optical and electronic holography work at MIT Media Laboratory and role as science advisor on the film Minority Report.

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    November 01, 2011 | by CI Staff
    John Underkoffler, chief scientist and technological visionary at Oblong Industries, will deliver the keynote address at Digital Signage Expo 2012 in Las Vegas.

    Underkoffler, best known for his optical and electronic holography work at MIT Media Laboratory and his role as science advisor on films such as the Minority Report, will present “Through and Beyond: A Pixel Dialogue” on Wed., March 7. The address will describe his vision of the radical shift in the coming decade that will change the way we think about digital displays: what they’re capable of, what they’re good for and how they will impact our way of life.

    His predictions are based chiefly upon new the forms of interactivity enabled by sensing, computation and networking integrated at the device level into future screens. But according to Underkoffler, most or all of the raw technology components necessary for the transition are already extant today in the form of the ‘spatial operating environment,’ the commercial platform that is the real-world successor to the gestural computing technologies envisioned in Minority Report (which, despite nearing its 10th anniversary, still provides one benchmark by which the evolution of display technologies is popularly measured).

    Underkoffler will use examples from this unusual fictional-into-real UI (User Interface) design trajectory to sketch some of the field’s most important and imminent advances, as well as their current and future impact on the world of digital signage.

    In addition to “Minority Report,” Underkoffler has been science advisor to films such as The Hulk (A. Lee), Aeon Flux and Iron Man. He also is active on several boards and serves as adjunct professor in the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

    “John Underkoffler’s unique ability to envision how and where technology will take our industry, and the manner in which it will be transformed, promises to be both educational and exciting,” said Richard Lebovitz, educational director for Atlanta-based Exponation LLC, which produces DSE. “DSE is pleased to be able to offer attendees the opportunity to hear a speaker whose observations will have a truly meaningful impact on the way they will be doing business in the future.”

    Registration for Underkoffler’s keynote and all DSE 2012 educational conference seminars is now open.

  3. Ed Personius says:

    Totally agree, Dave. This implementation is not creepy in the slightest, and not very provocative (from a customer attraction standpoint) either. It does appear, however, that the tools are there to make this type of display a lot more and a lot better that it appears. One big step would be to get a professional to make your video for you—here they are trying to promote this great technology and they have a pathetic video presentation. This is classic for the industry: Big on the tech and thin on the implementation/practical application.


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