The Future of TV: Hidden Commercials?


TiVo helps us skip the commercials. Now advertisers are finding more creative ways to get their message across. The latest trend in advertising is product placement. Instead of a Coca Cola commercial, you’ll see your favorite TV star drinking it. But now, the product doesn’t really have to be in the scene to be seen.

We are bombarded with commercials. In fact, $269 billion was spent on ads last year. Advertisers shelled out almost $1 billion to get their products integrated into TV shows. Most people see 5,000 messages a year, and now advertisers are sneaking in ads when we least expect them.

“You can create more unobtrusive advertising messages that are nice for the viewer and still get the message out,” Siddharth Batra, CEO of Zunavision, told Ivanhoe.

Computer scientists are using Zunavision to allow advertisers to place products in video that’s already shot. An algorithm called the 3-D Surface Tracker first analyzes the video. Then, pixel-by-pixel, the color, texture and lighting of the new added image are carefully blended to match the original video.

“Completely automatically, the software looks at the scene and see’s what camera movements should make sense — what’s in the foreground and what’s in the background,” Ashutosh Saxena, a computer scientist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., explained.

This new technology could also work for you at home.

“Let’s say you have an ex and you have a bad breakup, but you have a nice video, and you have a picture of them in the background. You could replace them,” Batra explained.

So forget about throwing away that old video. Keep the memory, but not your ex.

The creators of Zunavision believe this will open up a whole new revenue source for people. They can add products to their home videos and place them on YouTube and get paid by advertisers each time the video is watched.

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