Billboard That 'Knows' You're Female Isn't as Creepy as It Sounds

plan uk screenshotIt's bad enough that we now have billboards on highways that play video and distract us from driving. Now, advertisers can incorporate facial recognition technology into their sidewalk billboards and target a certain consumer group based on what the technology concludes about your appearance. A billboard that does exactly this is being tested right now in the UK. It uses a high-def camera to determine if a passerby is a man or a woman (with a 90 percent accuracy rate), and then it tailors its content to you depending on your gender. For. Real.

Although it sounds like it's something straight out of 1984 or The Hunger Games, you have to hand it to the global children's charity, Plan UK, that is behind this one particular billboard. They actually managed to figure out the perfect use for discriminating facial recognition.


See, if the passerby is a woman, the billboard will show her a full 40-second video of Plan UK's "Because I'm a Girl" campaign, which promotes sponsoring a girl to receive proper education in a developing country. You can watch that here.

But, if the passerby is a man, though, he'll only be directed to Plan UK's website. The purpose: To show men "a glimpse of what it's like to have basic choices taken away."

Wow, powerful, right? And so interesting! This campaign completely taps into the technology in a smart, novel way -- in that discriminating against passersby based on gender actually makes sense and contributes to their message! It makes you feel like facial recognition technology into everyday ads might not be all that treacherous.

But then again ... I'm not sure every company is going to want to use face recognition in the same way Plan UK has. More likely than not, it'll just work like Facebook or cable TV does, targeting the consumer or audience based on the info they have on us (i.e. You "liked", so you must be looking for a wedding dress, or you're watching The Notebook, so you must be someone who buys tampons). In other words, I can't see many companies using this technology in creative, cunning ways. But who knows ... maybe they'll surprise us. Either way, billboards that can figure out who we are as we walk by are no longer the stuff of science fiction. They're actually here, likely to stay.

What do you think about Plan UK's use of facial recognition? Does this technology creep you out?

Image via PlanUK/YouTube

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