The cookie monster: Stores will soon stalk you in the physical world

Cameras will watch what you're watching in malls, and nearby screens will promptly flash related ads at you, with tech from the U.K. The eyes are the window to the wallet. Very Minority Report.
Written by Mark Halper, Contributor on
The eyes have it. The movement of eyeballs like this one will tip off our interests to eye-recognition cameras. Store owners will then flash ads based on what we're looking at. Counter action: Wear sunglasses while shopping?

We're all accustomed to "cookies" tracking our every move on the Internet and bombarding us with targeted ads that creepily indicate that merchants know where we've cyber-been.

Now, the cookie monster will soon unchain itself from the Web and stalk the physical world as well.

Researchers at Lancaster University in England have developed an in-store system that spies on our eye movements and, on nearby screens, promptly flashes advertisements at us that correspond to what we've just been looking at, the BBC reports.

I'd turn around and run a thousand miles the first time that happens to me.

But the computer scientists don't have me in mind for their project, called Sideways. They hope to deploy it within five years, "using software to locate faces and eye movements of shoppers captured on camera," the BBC writes. Sideways represents one of many possible applications in the emerging area of eye-tracking software.

Stories like this invariably draw comparisons to the futuristic Stephen Spielberg film Minority Report, where eyeball recognition technology triggers digital display advertising that greets the Tom Cruise character at a shopping mall.

Forget the soul. The eyes are the window to the wallet. Yes indeed, the eyes have it.

Photo from Sugar Pond, Brooklyn via Wikimedia

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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