Conspiracy theorists have been writing about subliminal
advertising for years, although it turns out a lot of it isn't real. But that's for humans.
Fujitsu demonstrated a subliminal ad technology at CEATAC, the Japanese
electronics show. The technology works something like QR codes to access coupons, URLs and other kinds of information from
a television to a smartphone. The information is encoded by varying the
brightness levels in the picture at a rate too fast for humans to see. Hence the subliminal part.
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The idea is that if you're watching an ad, an icon or message
will pop up telling you to point your phone at the TV. The phone will read the
digital signal with its camera the same way it reads a QR code. On your phone,
up pops a website or special offer. Fujitsu says the system works up to about
10 feet away.
An interesting question is whether viewers will embrace this approach,
at least for advertising. During a car ad, for example, it isn't clear that
anyone will take out their phone and ask for more advertising content — after all,
most people see ads as a distraction at best, and an annoyance at worst.
The technology might sell better to people that want more information about a television show
or a movie. VH-1's "Pop-Up Video" has been doing something like it
since 1996; it's not a stretch to think some people would rather see that kind
of information on the phone rather than on the TV screen.