Next Advertising Frontier

There are a lot of interesting angles to the possibility that Google is developing technology to detect billboards and other ads in Google Maps street view images and replace them with their own ads. This news is based on a patent application, so it may not even happen. But it raises the question of whether Google even wants to get into doctoring their images to such a degree. Blurring out a detail or removing an image is one thing, but if users know that what they see may not be reality, will they lose faith in the reliability of the system? Having the imposed ad integrate seamlessly with the image would probably be necessary for it to be effective, but I would personally prefer to be able to identify imposed content.
There actually seem to be a set of patent applications that the articles I have seen are talking about and merging the discussion of – one that automatically finds ads in images and one that manages auctions of advertising space. The image-processing patent (application number 20100004995) is quite long so I’ve only skimmed it, but I would be very interested if this were pursued on how exactly an advertisement was defined and if there was an intention to include a person in the loop to ensure that only actual advertising space was being treated as such. Near me there are giant “Welcome To Pennsylvania” (or West Virginia…) signs that could look like ads but which convey map information that ought not to be lost. Simply finding large rectangular details won’t do it.
This also seems to raise the possibility that billboard advertisers will start acting like spammers, carefully crafting ads that both advertise and yet are missed by Google’s algorithm. Google’s online actions might end up changing the way our real-world advertising looks.

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