Soon, the movies could be watching you




Lesley Ciarula Taylor; Staff Reporter

A Canadian security surveillance company is part of a project to develop technology to watch moviegoers as they watch a movie.

Using a combination of 2-D and 3-D imaging, the technology would be able to measure emotions, groupings and movement to “revolutionize market research” at movie theatres.

“This tool will feed powerful marketing data (to) film directors, cinema advertisers and cinemas about what audiences enjoy and what adverts capture the most attention,” Dr. Abdul Farooq, of the Machine Vision Laboratory at the University of the West of England in Bristol, said in a release from UWE.

The lab has partnered with Aralia Systems of West Sussex, England, to build the new software. Aralia in turn is in partnership with Pikaia Systems of Ottawa, which holds several pending infrared illumination patents.

The new technology would use 2-D cameras to detect emotion and 3-D cameras to measure movement.

“This will do what has been done manually for years in cinemas,” Jessica Engler, marketing manager of Aralia, told the Star. “It’s the technology aspect that scares” people.

“What we’re keen to determine is: Are they sitting in family groups? At what point are they enjoying the film? Are they looking happy or are they looking bored?” said Professor Melvyn Smith, director of the Machine Vision Lab.

As for the potential to measure movement, “We plan to build on the capabilities of current technology used in cinemas to detect criminals making pirate copies of films with video cameras,” said Machine Vision Lab’s Farooq.

Anti-piracy cameras are only at the testing stage, Aralia’s Engler pointed out, and are only used with “full permission” of the movie audience. “We don’t have plans to illegally tape people.”

The three-year project is part of Aralia’s strategy to “create new markets in the entertainment and advertising industries,” said CEO Glynn Wright. The company previously concentrated on intelligence surveillance and video analytics.

Pikaia, founded in 2007, provides customized security surveillance and tracking for private and public companies.

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