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Virgin Mobile’s YouTube page has one of the coolest things I’ve seen online in some time. It is using a webcam technology it calls “BlinkWashing” to track your eye movements and change the ad whenever you blink. It’s mesmerizing.
This is how it works: Once you give Virgin permission to fire up your webcam, it goes through a quick calibration process of finding your eyes and asking you to blink on two separate instances. It takes less than a minute. Virgin has created a series of 25 different clips, and every time you blink it skips from one clip to the next.
I’m not quite sure what purpose Blinkwashing could serve in a practical setting, since it is nearly impossible not to blink, especially when you’re trying not to. I just spent the last 10 minutes in varied states of teariness, blinking a lot at first just to see if it worked, then trying to keep my eyes open for as long as possible to see if I could make it through an entire clip. It turns out that I couldn’t, but I like the potential of hands-free control using just a standard webcam.
And the technology works surprisingly well. It registered almost all of my blinks, even with a pair of glasses reflecting the sun. And, to Virgin Mobile’s credit, I spent much longer watching an online commercial than I probably ever have, which also makes this a pretty effective marketing tool.
We’ll be highlighting the next-generation of user interfaces at our RoadMap conference in November in San Francisco.