In what can only be described as one of the more unusual approaches to online advertising, Virgin Mobile’s YouTube page is now using a technology they’ve dubbed BlinkWashed in which they use your webcam to track your eye movements. Each time you blink, the onscreen advertisement will change. Um, what?
Virgin will ask for your permission to access your webcam. When granted, it will perform a quick calibration test in which you’ll be asked to blink your eyes at two different intervals. Once calibrated, you’re all set to view some ads.
You’ll be shown an advertisement and whenever you blink, the ad will change to something completely different (apparently there are 25 different ads as of writing). Logically, it will work best if you have a blazing fast Internet connection.
I wasn’t able to try it out for myself as I don’t have a webcam attached to my main computer but others say it works surprisingly well. A writer for Gigaom said it registered almost all of his blinks, even when wearing a pair of glasses that were reflecting bright sunlight.
The writer also said he spent much more time than usual watching an online commercial which plays right into Virgin’s plan of making this a very effective (if somewhat limited) marketing tool. Looking ahead, Virgin could be using this as a public beta of sorts as part of a larger hands-free control system that utilizes a user’s webcam, but I digress.