Movie Theaters Can Track Your Emotions
Do you remember George Orwell’s novel 1984?
In the dystopian world that Orwell creates, it is mandatory for every household to have a ‘telescreen,’ which is essentially a television with the ability to allow authorities to monitor its viewers. The authorities ensure that the viewers are watching the appropriate propaganda and reacting accordingly. Viewers who were not having appropriate reactions to what was being displayed on the screen were brought to the “Thought Police.”
Unfortunately, it seems as though fiction is becoming reality. Technology has been developed to film theatergoers as they watch and react to movies and the preceding commercials.
Aralia Systems and Machine Vision Lab, two of the companies who have collaborated to create this technology, claim that these cameras will also stop people from pirating the films, using infrared light beams that reflect off cameras.
As Machine Vision Lab’s Dr. Abdul Farooq explained to a writer for PhysOrg, “We plan to build on the capabilities of current technology used in cinemas to detect criminals making pirate copies of films with video cameras. We want to devise instruments that will be capable of collecting data that can be used by cinemas to monitor audience reactions to films and adverts and also to gather data about attention and audience movement. It is envisaged that once the technology has been fine tuned it could be used by market researchers in all kinds of settings, including monitoring reactions to shop window displays.”
Isn’t this what focus groups are for?
In recording moviegoers, researchers will be able to use the information to sell products. They would also be able to sell the information itself. In giving our patronage to move theaters that have these cameras, we are effectively giving these companies both our money and information that they can profit from; we would be paying to be watched.
How would you feel about essentially being part of a focus group without any compensation?
Furthermore, these cameras could easily read an emotion that a patron is expressing, but not in reaction to the movie. Someone could be angry at another audience member for talking loudly during the film, and not angry at what is going on in the movie itself.
What about the couples that make out in the back of the theater? It’s doubtful that they are doing so because the movie is romantic. Also, what about audience members that don’t have typical reactions to films? This could be someone with Aspergers, or simply someone who laughs at inappropriate moments (like those who laugh during horror movies.) When you consider these scenarios, do you think filming moviegoers is an effective way to do market research?
If this technology becomes widely used in theaters, moviegoers must either consent to being recorded, or forgo watching movies in theaters altogether. Furthermore, if retailers begin utilizing this technology for their window displays, we will essentially be filmed just for passing by a store. It is true that we are filmed in many places already (in stores, at traffic lights, etc.,) but this technology not only films people, it stores data about their emotional reactions. Feels a little like a science fiction novel. George Orwell is probably rolling in his grave.
Do you think this technology will become widely used? What effect would it have on box office sales, or on the retail industry? Do you feel comfortable with being filmed during a movie, or when looking at a store window?
You may read one of the many articles regarding this issue here.