By Lin Parkin
July 8, 2013
A fascinating, albeit, slightly disturbing, technology is making its way into mainstream marketing.
Earlier this Spring, a German ad agency called BBDO Düsseldorf introduced "The Talking Window" by Sky Go. It's a device that can be attached to the window of a passenger car on Subways. As weary passengers lean their heads against a window, they, and only they, hear an advertisement. If they take their heads off the window the message stops playing. The YouTube video depicts the true reactions of passengers as they unexpectedly hear the ads.
This biotechnology is called "Bone Conduction." It is the conduction of sound to the inner ear through the bones of the skull. It presents all kinds of new possibilities for tech-savvy marketers but there are, naturally, concerns over the technology.
Understandably so. Privacy is a concern for everyone and infiltrating consumers' minds without their awareness is crossing a delicate line.
While the technology may be new to marketers it is by no means new to the medical community.
In fact, in the 18th century composer Ludwig van Beethoven tried a technique developed by Giovanni Filippo Ingrassi, discovering that he could hear music through his jawbone by biting a rod attached to his piano.
Fast forward a few centuries and bone conduction technology is being used in some types of hearing aids. The hearing aid is worn like a set of headphones, but instead of resting on the ears, the headphones are placed on the bone directly behind the ear which picks up the ambient sounds and plays them in the wearers mind through the bones of the skull, essentially mimicking natural hearing.
This technology has also been used by the military and special ops forces for decades, allowing the wearer to hear voice commands while still hearing the noises around them. These types of headphones are also available now to the average consumer and are targeted at outdoor enthusiasts such as joggers, skateboarders, and cyclists so that they can safely enjoy music while still being able to hear the traffic around them.
Google Glass is another way this technology is reaching everyday people. As many of you know, Voices.com's CEO, David Ciccarelli, is one of the first Canadian's chosen to be a Google Glass Explorer. Google Glass is, at its core, a wearable computer.
David has demonstrated the smartphone-like features of Google Glass and how it allows you to take pictures, give voice commands to the device, take video, and playback audio you've recorded directly to your mind also using bone conduction technology.
The difference with all these devices and that of "The Talking Window" is that the person is the one selecting what they will hear and are aware that they are going to hear it.
Sounds like something straight out of a sci-fi novel, doesn't it?
But for many advertisers it could be the ultimate in direct advertising. "The Talking Window" has incredible potential and, had the public been aware that there was special advertising where they were sitting, it may have been more enthusiastically received.
What do you think? Cool technology, or invasion of privacy?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.
All the best,