For most people going to a cinema is a good night out. Only a few realize that they are often subjecting themselves to extreme and privacy invading security measures that most airports could only dream of. Filmgoers are already being carefully watched for suspicious behavior by Big Brother’s cameras, but soon this technology will be upgraded with sophisticated emotion recognition software.
Hindering piracy is priority number one for movie theaters nowadays. In dealing with a tiny minority, theater owners are slowly alienating their customers by employing measures such as metal detectors, night-vision goggles, bag and body searches and audio watermarks. Everyone is treated as a potential pirate.
Despite the invasive ramifications for the movie going public, the efforts are paying off nicely for the theater owners. Night vision goggles helped to spot Batman and Bond ‘camcording’ pirates among others, but not surprisingly the movie industry continues to look for new ways to protect their movies from piracy.
One of the available anti-camcorder solutions is offered by Aralia Systems, an Orwellian company that specializes in monitoring services and technologies. Besides traditional CCTV cameras, Aralia Systems offers elaborate piracy tracking devices. One of their products is an anti-camcorder system that projects infrared light beams onto a cinema audience. These beams are reflected back off camcorders and will trigger several alarm bells.
In order for their technologies to further benefit the movie industry, Aralia Systems has been awarded a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Machine Vision Lab of the University of the West of England (UWE). The grant is good for more than £215,000, and will be used to build new capabilities into existing piracy tracking instruments.
We spoke with project leader Dr. Abdul Farooq from Machine Vision Lab, who told us that their main goal is to extend the functionalities of the current anti-piracy systems. Basically, it comes down to extracting as much information from movie goers as possible, by adding analytics software that can read people’s physical reactions as well as their emotions.
“We want to devise instruments that will be capable of collecting data that can be used by cinemas to monitor audience reactions to films and adverts and also to gather data about attention and audience movement,” Dr. Farooq said.
“Using 2D and 3D imaging technology we aim to do this in two ways. Obviously cinema audiences are spread out in large theatre settings so we need to build instruments that can capture data for different purposes. We will use 2D cameras to detect emotion but will also collect movement data through a 3D data measurement that will capture the audience as a whole as a texture,” Dr. Farooq further explained.
According to Dr. Farooq the project should make it possible to record and analyze the public’s emotions. These emotions will not be used to track down camcording pirates, but will serve as a market research tool for the movie industry and advertisers.
“Within the cinema industry this tool will feed powerful marketing data that will inform film directors, cinema advertisers and cinemas with useful data about what audiences enjoy and what adverts capture the most attention. By measuring emotion and movement film companies and cinema advertising agencies can learn so much from their audiences that will help to inform creativity and strategy,” Dr. Farooq noted.
Although the new project doesn’t focus specifically on anti-piracy efforts, it will be built into the existing anti-piracy tracking systems that are used in several theaters.
The main question that comes to mind is how far these systems can go without specifically asking for consent from theater visitors. What was once a relaxing evening out might be turning into an interactive consumer research lab, with cameras carefully analyzing, recording and storing your every move – while you’re being charged for the privilege.