Perceptive media: coming soon to a TV near you?

We’re only 35 days away from 2013, as you can probably tell by the increasing number of predictions for next year that have taken Twitter by storm. Seems that 2013 will be the year of mobile again (but this time faster thanks to 4G), social influence will move beyond ‘likes’ to incentivise recommendations and media spend will shift from display to paid sponsored content.  For me, the most exciting development in 2013 will be the rise of perceptive media.

So what is perceptive media and why am I so excited about it?

In a nutshell, perceptive media is either video or audio that adapts itself based on information it has gathered on an individual user, such as location or programme viewing preferences, therefore being able to personalise the content and make it relevant to each viewer.  For example, if you were watching a game show for the first time it might explain the rules to you whereas regular viewers would get bonus content; or the music playing on a TV drama would change to suit your tastes.

Perceptive media is not the same as interactive media, where people are given the opportunity to actively engage with live media via social media or voting. Perceptive media uses implicit or explicit information collected using cameras, sensors, recognition software, apps, etc. Microsoft was one of the pioneers of perceptive media, using its Kinect device to link people to their Xbox Live ID using facial recognition, to tailor each player’s experience. We have seen some other examples recently, such as Google using Google Maps to incorporate images of the viewer’s hometown into Arcade Fire’s The Wilderness Downtown video or Take This Lollipop, a short film that uses the Facebook Connect app to bring viewers themselves into the film, through use of pictures and messages from their profile.

But perceptive media is going beyond gaming and apps. For me the real potential of perceptive media lies in how it could change the way we view TV by providing a personalised experience.

This year Samsung launched its first TV with a built-in camera, which recognises who is in front of the TV to bring up their favourite programmes, and developers are looking into incorporating sensors to capture the viewer’s body language and respond to its messages (e.g: by suggesting a more exciting show if the viewer appears bored). Broadcasters recognise how this type of interaction can increase engagement and connect with the audience in a deeper level. The folks at the BBC R&D department recently demoed ‘Breaking out’, a perceptive media audio play which uses information about the viewer to adapt the plot within a scope defined by the storyteller.

Perceptive Media takes narrative back to something more aligned to a storyteller and an audience around a campfire using internet technologies and sensibility to create something closer to a personal theatre experience in your living room –  Ian Forrester, BBC R&D

BBC R&D: Perceptive Media “Breaking Out”

More than ever, brands are striving to tailor their marketing messages and make them relevant to each individual.  A step forward from targeted online ads using your browsing data or location-based mobile ads, perceptive media aims to create a personalised experience in a much more subtle way. Perceptive media could allow advertisers to customise ads to each viewer’s circumstances and tastes by ‘reading their minds’. Having your TV ‘watching you’ might sound a bit like ‘1984’ and I believe that one of the main issues it will face relates to privacy. Another challenge will be how this would work if there is more than one person watching TV together, as people have different tastes. It is still early days to fully understand all the implications, but it certainly has the potential to transform our media experience.

And I just realised that there are only 28 days left until Christmas, so I better start on my shopping list. Can somebody invent a perceptive shopping list based on my mother’s expression when she watches Christmas ads? I bet John Lewis would be taking lots of orders…

Ines Nadal is Head of Trends & Futures at Ipsos MORI. Follow her on Twitter @inesnadal

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