App Incentivizing Attention With 'Free' Movie Tickets Will Use Eye-Tracking to Force Users to Watch Ads

Tuesday, 23 July 2019 - 1:45PM
Science of Sci-Fi
Dystopias
Tuesday, 23 July 2019 - 1:45PM
App Incentivizing Attention With 'Free' Movie Tickets Will Use Eye-Tracking to Force Users to Watch Ads
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I'm not anti-technology: being anti-technology in an age as immersed in an ocean of rapidly evolving tech as this one would be about as revolutionary as Abe Simpson shouting at a cloud, except with far less media coverage. I do, however, have a certain antipathy towards tech entrepreneurs that, lacking social dexterity, create products and services whose sole purpose is to influence human attention towards advertising.


It should come as no surprise then that when I saw the descriptions of PreShow – the first "ad-supported movie app" which just raised $56,271 against a $10,000 goal on Kickstarter – my first thought was, "how can this technology be destroyed or exploited for the benefit of users and the detriment of advertisers?" The premise is surprisingly transparent: you download the app, enter a code and some information, and a virtual "card" is created: this is where your credits, which can only be used to purchase movie tickets, are stored. To get your "free" ticket by selecting a movie, watching 20 minutes of advertising to earn credits, and then using the credits to buy the ticket.


So what if you just leave your phone on your coffee table playing ads while you do something else? Well, that won't work. The app uses the facial recognition technology built into your phone to unlock and to monitor your attention as you watch it. "If it weren't for facial recognition, I don't think we could still do it," said PreShow founder Stacy Spikes in an interview with CNET. "If not, they could game this all day long." Look away and the ad will pause for five seconds. "We had two problems to solve: We didn't want people creating dummy accounts, and we're dealing with real currency at the end of the day, so we needed to uniquely lock it," said Spikes, who also co-founded MoviePass, best known for losing 90% of its subscribers in under 12 months. "Facial recognition at the phone level is just a year and a half old. You couldn't do this company two years ago."


Before we get into some of the possibilities for mischief, let's take a look at this video – which I hope is ad-free – that takes a look at Internet advertising and how PreShow fits into it.



So how could someone game this process? The answer is probably less about trying to fool facial recognition tech than it is about mitigating whatever tedious waste of time is being pumped out of the screen. The most obvious and low-tech solution would to partially cover the front of your device and close the headphone jack (and not putting the headphones on/in). You'd still have to hold the device and look at the screen, but if you have to stare at something, why not make it something worthwhile... like a book? 


It's not the most elegant solution, I know, but it may be better than 20 minutes of ads. Besides, you'll get at least 20 minutes of ads once you get to the theater anyway, why compound your suffering?



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