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While emphatically stubbing out his umpteenth cigarette of the morning, Don Draper throws the story board on his desk “No one cares about your damn copy, Peggy.” Okay, so maybe this didn’t happen on “Mad Men,” but it did happen in countless meetings years ago when I worked for some of the world’s great advertising agencies, running some of the world’s most enduring ad campaigns.
Two decades later, a behavioral and technological revolution is upon us and it is a marketer’s dream. If the human brain really does process visual images 60,000 times faster than text, why have we spent so much time developing text-based solutions? The powerful imaging technology in today’s mobile devices is dramatically transforming the way people interact, work and learn, and it is allowing for highly-customized, targeted, immersive mobile marketing experiences. Remarkably, if done correctly, these advanced technologies don’t feel intrusive or unsolicited; they feel natural, as if your smartphone is simply an extension of you, your personal preferences and your everyday life. Powerful image-based communication, delivered at the exact moment of relevance, will create exciting new business models and delight consumers by putting highly-digestible information in their hands.
The future is clear: high-quality imaging, combined with easy portability, is a big part of what’s making smartphones a priority purchase for consumers all over the world.
These devices are amazing thanks to exponential processing power increases stemming from Moore’s Law (for full disclosure I did work for Intel for a number of years). It’s the extraordinary capacity of the microprocessor that makes today’s mobile phone 10-times more powerful than its early predecessors, with similar advancements seen in digital cameras and other imaging gadgets.
Let’s put that in perspective: today’s smartphone put twice as much processing power as a Cray super-computer of the 70’s that weighed 5.5 tons and required freon to keep it cool – in the palm of your hand. With an estimated 2.7 billion cameras in mobile devices expected to ship in 2018, trillions of images will be taken, edited, posted, tagged, stored and commented upon.
Are consumers ready? Are businesses ready?
Imaging technology that makes photos ‘smarter’
Many of the breakthrough apps in the last few years have been imaging-oriented. Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat are all based on the principle that images say more than words. Even Twitter has seen leaps in engagements when a Tweet carries an image. We are on the cusp of a new wave of image-based technology, services and applications. The largest social networks like Facebook and Google+ are quickly revamping their layouts to bring images to the forefront of their communities.
Currently, there are over 2.7 million “likes” and 300 million photos uploaded each day on Facebook. This breaks down into nearly 3,000 images posted per second. These vast numbers highlight the need to improve the overall quality, ease of editing, storage and management of the tsunami of images being shared each day.
Yet these are just basic uses. Imagine the potential of “smart” image-based applications and services. The common idea of “smart” in reference to mobile has come to mean much more than convenient. “Smart Imaging” should now signify actual software “thinking” capability that combines pattern, face and gesture recognition technologies in novel ways to provide services tailored to the customer’s particular needs.
Take face recognition for example. Being able to recognize a human face with a simple smartphone camera sensor is like something out of a Ray Bradbury novel, but it’s here and the possibilities are endless. Here are just a few potential opportunities to blend smart imaging with “bricks and mortar” retail marketing :
–You’re at the mall. You’re looking for some new sunglasses. An app scans your face using your smartphone camera and directs you to the nearest sunglass retailer with glasses perfect for the proportions of your face.
–You’re considering a make-over to look your best for an upcoming special occasion. Popping into a boutique your digital stylist guides you to just the right make-up and accessories to accompany your outfit. You spend more than you planned to but you are confident it will all work together perfectly.
–Your sulky teen needs a haircut. Now. He agrees to go on condition that he can check out the possibilities digitally first, so the stylist knows exactly what to do, with no misunderstanding.
Introducing science non-fiction
Gesture recognition technology is taking center stage as more and more technology companies strive to compete in the digital imaging space. This technology enables the user to manipulate what is on his or her screen with a wave of the hand or a finger motion to change channels, adjust volumes, navigate home screens or turn off devices.
It is projected that over 600 million smartphones will be shipped with vision-based gesture recognition features in 2017 (ABI Research). While camera-based gesture tracking and 3-D imaging have been used for several years in products such as Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation, ABI predicts within one year there will be a mass adoption of this technology, driven by mobile devices and tablets. Might we see ads that animate when they detect your head has turned back to the screen? Or rich content that pops up when it detects your eyes lingering on a particularly attractive image – say, for example, a beautiful white sandy beach in the middle of winter. Gesture recognition and its technology cousins are creating more ways to bring us the information perhaps we didn’t even realize we wanted, at just the right moment.
Visualizing the future
With future digital imaging trends poised to grow exponentially in the years to come, we expect to see consumer demand and expectations ratchet ever higher. They’re going to want newer and better applications that help them make smarter choices. That’s good for consumers and businesses alike. The most astute technology companies will certainly be riding this massive innovation wave – and anticipating the next big surge with products that are smarter than ever before.