The advertising billboards of the future will not simply promote a product, but analyze the audience and display items that the viewer is more likely to buy.
It may sound like something out of the future, but Japanese firms have already developed the technology to deliver a more focused message. And that, they hope, will lead to better sales.
Electronics giant NEC Corp. recently unveiled PanelDirector, an interactive advertising solution that is equipped with a small camera that is able to capture an image of anyone that looks at it.
That individual's face is then compared to more than 10,000 patterns stored in its database and the device is able to determine the gender and approximate age of the viewer. Armed with that information, PanelDirector can then display an image appropriate to that person.
At a demonstration this week at NEC's headquarters in Tokyo, a young woman was asked to step in front of the display panel. It responded instantaneously by showing an advertisement for pasta.
"The effectiveness of content may now be measured through the combination of NEC's cutting-edge face recognition technology, which determines the age range and gender of individuals, and its highly accurate audience measurement services, which calculates the distance from, and amount of time that an individual pays attention to a display in order to deliver content that is most likely to appeal to a specific audience," NEC said in a statement.
And new technologies that are being developed at present will enable the use of three-dimensional images and link sales promotions to environmental data - meaning that there will be an increased likelihood of seeing an advert for an umbrella when it is raining.
NEC is not alone in its advertising endeavours as NTT Communications ran a test using a similar system in a Tokyo station earlier this year. Again, a camera is embedded in the sign and monitors how many people look at the image.
The company's Cyber Space Laboratories said it is hoping to take advantage of the myriad advertising displays that dominate street corners and railway stations in Japan, with an increasing number of digital signboards.
Face-recognition software has also been developed for a drinks dispensing machine that was introduced at Tokyo's Shinagawa Station in August. The machine is able to analyze a customer's face, determine gender and age, factor in the temperature and weather and then recommend a drink that he or she might like.