I’m not sure whether to heap praise on startup ZunaVision, or be terrified of it. The company, which just incorporated two days ago, has developed a technology that lets you insert and blend ads (almost) seamlessly onto the surface of objects within a video and could be a marketer’s dream. But it also means that even dogs riding skateboards could soon be covered in logos.
Developed by two Stanford graduate students, Ashutosh Saxena and Siddharth Batra, along with Assistant Professor Andrew Ng, ZunaVision’s technology allows users to embed images within a video. Batra calls it “post post production.” But unlike clunky overlay ads, the software knows where these placements are within the video and will adjust for things like foreground and background, lighting conditions and motion. The embedded video provides an good demonstration of the technology.
For instance, you could put a logo on the wall of a building and the software will automatically adjust the tone of the image to match the lighting conditions around it (i.e. whether it’s in the shade or direct light), as well as allow people in the foreground to walk in front of the image. If the camera moves, the image stays on with the wall in the same space and will maintain the proper perspective.
And it’s not just still images and logos. The software can also insert video ads on surfaces within the video. Ad insertions can also be clickable to link back to an advertiser’s site, and are dynamic, so different ads can be served to different audiences playing the same video. This means anyone can incorporate product placements into their videos in a way that isn’t obtrusive.
Suddenly, the KeyStream technology, which identifies dead spaces in videos on the fly and inserts ads there, seems clunky, and standard overlays that cover up the bottom third of a video become almost barbaric.
But the technology can be used for other purposes besides ad insertions. You could insert different artwork into videos of your home to see how different paintings or prints would look. Or if you’re shooting a film you could have a dummy newscast playing in the background.
One issue that could potentially arise is people inserting ads on recognizable buildings or spaces. The owners of the TransAmerica tower might get in a snit if people are slapping Coke ads on the side of its building.
That’s one for the lawyers to figure out, and ZunaVision could soon have a legal team on the payroll. The company is out pitching VCs to raise its first round of funding. The company is already talking with some YouTube Partners (not YouTube itself) to incorporate the technology into their videos, and it plans to make money by licensing its technology to ad networks or creating its own ad network.