This kind of in-depth consumer insight is invaluable. Synaps Labs is using similar technology to upgrade out-of-home advertising with supercharged targeting, and Microsoft is already working with brands to incorporate machine vision technology into their products. ‘We’ve been working with large auto manufacturers who are thinking about putting driver-facing cameras in their cars,’ says Andy Hickl, Microsoft’s principal group program manager, cognitive services. ‘They’re interested in really creating an empathetic user experience, so if I get in the car and I’m sweaty and out of breath, the car could change the climate control to cool me off. Or, if I’m getting in the car and I’m out of control or angry, it could look at ways to augment my driving and keep me safe. And that means using computer vision to understand the driver’s facial geometry.’
The benefits of implementing machine vision tech are staggering, but they also come with important privacy considerations. In her research, which used Facebook profile pictures to determine personality traits, Cristina Segalin, postdoctoral scholar at Caltech, found that machine vision can give very specific insights into people’s lives. ‘When it comes to personal data there are still a lot of issues,’ she said. ‘Machine vision technology might infer traits or characteristics about a person that they weren’t aiming to share – so you might be sharing more information than you think.’
This is something that brands must keep in mind. Even with GDPR just around the corner, asking people to re-opt in to transferring their data over to you isn’t enough. If the data being gathered isn’t treated respectfully, or there isn’t enough transparency around the insights being generated, eventually trust is going to disappear completely. I declined Facebook’s request to use facial recognition on my account and I expect I wasn’t alone. Machine vision has the potential to strengthen and streamline creativity, so don’t follow Zuckerberg’s example or you might end up screwing yourself out of a major competitive advantage.