Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Tuesday 30/09/2003There are times when technology is not your friend. Imagine staggering through Soho after an evening's intensive alcohol therapy, weaving your way down to Piccadilly Circus and the welcoming tube home, only to come across the World's Widest Active Billboard.

Tuesday 30/09/2003
There are times when technology is not your friend. Imagine staggering through Soho after an evening's intensive alcohol therapy, weaving your way down to Piccadilly Circus and the welcoming tube home, only to come across the World's Widest Active Billboard. Coca-Cola has built this very thing, a paen to old-style advertising and an enormous mug's eyeful of glittering pixels. It's vast, it's colourful and it's in the service of selling sugar water.

So far, so good. But those evil marketeers at Coke aren't content to leave it at that. No, they've given the darn thing the ability to sense its environment. If it's raining, the thing weeps giant virtual raindrops; when the wind blows, the image ripples. For the sensorially challenged, whose legs have turned into virtual Segways, the sight of the side of a building blowing in the wind may not be entirely welcome.

It gets worse. Video sensors tucked away in the evil device, it will be able to spot people waving at it from the street below and react accordingly. Text messages sent to it will provoke a response. A more terrifying target for hackers is hard to envisage. "GOODWINS!" it will silently yell in letters the size of a London bus. "YES! YOU BOY! You're REVOLTINGLY drunk. And WHO is that with you? Does HER FATHER KNOW?"

It is, I fear, perhaps the best targeted force for moral good and the consumption of soft drinks yet invented. I doff my hat to the sucrose-fuelled minds behind it, and promise in future to catch the tube from Leicester Square instead.

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