Google gets all Minority Report with Street View
As if you expected anything less
Yes, Google is exploring the possibility of slipping ads into Street View, its virtual reality project that seeks to photograph the world and recreate it online.
According to Cnet, a Google presentation recently delivered to European marketing and ad agencies at least hints at a future where Street View does ads, virtually recreating the sort of ad-saturated dystopia portrayed in sci-fi cinema like Minority Report and Brazil.
And it's no surprise.
In 2007, Google filed for a patent on a system that automatically recognizes word and characters that turn up in digital photos. One of the Googlers behind the patent application was Luc Vincent, self-described as one of the leaders of the Street View project, and naturally, the application discussed using the system to serve ads.
"In one implementation, advertisements are presented along with the presented image," the application read. "For example, an advertisement can be presented for the business identified in the image. Alternatively, one or more advertisements can be presented for alternative businesses. Additionally, the advertisement can be for one or more products associated with the business in the presented image, user search terms, or according to other criteria."
Then, in March of last year, a startup calling itself Pixazza debuted a new-age ad system that serves up ads when web surfers mouse over net photos. The company also unveiled Google as one of its primary backers, and its headquarters are in Mountain View, just down the road from the Google Chocolate Factory.
"Pixazza hopes to do for images what Google’s AdSense did for web pages,” read a canned statement from chief executive Bob Lisbonne, a former senior vice president and the general manager of Netscape’s browser division.
It looks something like this:
Google is already serving text ads when you search for public pics on its Picasa photo-sharing site, and we all know it's working overtime to slip ads into YouTube videos. With Street View, it's only a matter of time.
According to Cnet, Google's European presentation mooted the idea of Street View ads that link back to merchant info in its Local Business Center database. Somehow, they would also tap its Favorite Places program, where businesses attach bar codes to their (real) storefronts so that people (physically) passing by can bring up info and special offers on their smartphones.
So, we'll have links to Google ads in the real world and links to Google ads in the virtual version of the real world. And in the virtual version, Google's presentation indicates, they'll appear like floating billboards.
You see, Google is taking the shortcut to Minority Report. Rather than bring the targeted ads to the real world, it's bringing the real world to the targeted ads. Yes, it's less disturbing. But only just. Street View was creepy enough already.
And if you aren't creeped out by Street View, if you believe in it, doesn't the ad serving defeat the purpose? We thought the idea was to recreate the real world. But now Google intends to tamper with its recreation for the sake of its all-important ad dollar. Serving ads alongside search results or book scans or toilet-flushing cat videos in one thing. This is another. ®
This is horrible
Really horrible. Horrible in a way which makes me feel like I've vomited into a flip-flop which has been picked up, by a previously unseen stalker dressed in Google's colours, and used to slap me soundly and repeatedly in the mouth while he tells me how good it should feel. Flip-flops are comfortable! I should want more! Have it anyway, you'll get used to it! And as I consider how much of my life I've given to Google, because they always make me feel comfortable, with their funny sketches and their doing no evil, I wearily nod my vomit-spattered face and accept it as progress.
Not so much Minority Report...
...as They Live (1988).
If you haven't seen it, it's one of the best movies of the 80s (for both good and bad reasons, but it's highly entertaining). It's also seriously ripe for a remake, as the global conspiracy and corporate control issues it deals with are even more relevant today!
If I was in any way capable, I would make an augumented reality iPhone app that replaces billboards with stark white signs proclaiming 'CONSUME', newspapers with 'BELIEVE' and random people's faces with grotesque alien overlord features... classic.
Ministry of Truth
One gets the feeling that Google's "Do no evil" is rapidly becoming a rather poor joke. Indeed, as Google insinuate themselves into every part of life that they can, it has probably already past the point where it has much the same role as the "Ministry of Truth" had in 1984.
I rathger suspect that we will mark 2010 as the year that Google overtly changed from the nice set of neat services created by a bunch of well meaning geeks into the next incarnation of the evil empire. It has been brewing for some time, but this year will probably see many things come to fruition.
Constantly referring to them as the Chocolate Factory doesn't help either. That preserves the aura of geekyness and warm fuzzy ideals, and even a slightl level of incompetance. Face it, that image has past its use by date. The nice friendly colours of the logo, whimsical name, and projected image of cool technology covers up a publicly listed company whose only goal is to make as much money as possible for its shareholders. And they realised a long time ago that the best way to do this is to own everyone's soul.