'Wired' NextFest Gives Glimpse of Media Future

Imagine Search Results Before You Ask for Them, or Paying by Fingerprint

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Futuristic exhibitions at Wired's NextFest, starting this week in New York, include a fuel-cell vehicle, the ever-approaching "kitchen of the future" and wearable fabrics that emit light in the night. And, oh yes, there will be robots: dancers, DJs and even Paro, a robot furry baby seal.
VirtuSphere is a big, walk-in ball on rollers that lets users walk, turn, run, crawl and jump while wearing virtual-reality goggles.
VirtuSphere is a big, walk-in ball on rollers that lets users walk, turn, run, crawl and jump while wearing virtual-reality goggles.

Much of the budding tech is likely to affect how people interact with marketing. Here are four areas to check out.

You Blink, You Buy: OK, we're not that far yet. But your fingertip will do -- it's all you need to make a purchase using the Pay By Touch system. Consumers who sign up provide financial and contact information and visit participating stores to get their fingers scanned.

The setup could make it easier to separate impulse shoppers from their money at vending machines, kiosks and even cash registers. Point-of-purchase advertising could become all the more effective and important.

The simple recognition technology could also make in-store displays and other marketing stands into great tools for capturing consumer leads. Imagine: "Want a three-month trial subscription to People magazine? Touch your finger to this display."

Worlds of Wander: Media today mostly comprise flat images plus sound; exhibits with 3-D displays and motion sensors point toward immersive video games; virtual visits to tourist destinations; and live-action, life-size advertising.

FeedTank, Brooklyn, N.Y., recently developed an interactive display for New York's Crunch gyms. "It's basically a simple kind of colored grid with their logo. The squares move when someone walks through. It reacts to them and scatters," said Jonah Warren, co-founder of FeedTank.

Then there's the VirtuSphere, a big, walk-in ball on rollers that lets users walk, turn, run, crawl and jump while wearing virtual-reality goggles. Imagine a virtual tour of Walt Disney World or an immersive movie preview. "Eye candy for customers," said Ray Latypov, CEO, VirtuSphere.

Keyword Sprawl: Why should online search only produce results when you ask? Watson is a computer application that watches what you do on the web, in e-mail and even inside documents so it can automatically suggest links relevant to your work. And where search results show up, keyword ads arrive too.

Don't call Watson an ad-delivery vehicle, said Alan G. Wasserberger, CEO of Intellext, Watson's maker. "It's an application that helps users find the information they need when they need it, whether they knew they needed it or not." But he quickly added: "Sometimes the best information is advertising." Watson is already available in a paid-subscription model or a free, ad-supported version.

Steaming Media: The thin sheet of mist on which FogScreen projects translucent walk-through images is cold and dry, not like steam at all, but the look is similar. "The typical application has been for brand promotions," said Mika Koivula, CEO, FogScreen. The screen is already being used to show images in a mall in Egypt and on this year's Bud Light Maxim Exposure tour.

FogScreen's picture quality doesn't approach the crispness of a flat-screen TV, but a smaller model introduced this year is an improvement.
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