Microsoft unveiled its NUads platform last week at the Cannes International Advertising Festival.
The platform uses Kinect voice and gesture control for the Xbox 360 to allow you to interact with television ads as they appear on screen.
"Typically when I talk about new technologies, I try to avoid hyperbole," wrote Mark Kroese, Microsoft's manager of advertising, entertainment and devices on his blog (June 21). "But in this case of NUads and Kinect, I'm here to say that it will change television as we know it -- forever."
A pretty optimistic outlook, for sure, but Kroese believes NUads is at the forefront of interactive TV. To better place this advancement within the overall history of UI, he identifies three key Natural User Interface (or NUI) milestones:
- 1990: The launch of the Graphical User Interface with Windows 3.0
- 2006: The introduction of touchscreen mobile phones
- 2010: The development of Microsoft Kinect technology
"The Kinect sensor brought NUI to the TV, and built the foundation for another much-anticipated leap forward: interactive television," Kroese writes.
So how does it work?
Of course, you really need to see NUads in action to understand its interface.
Enrique de la Garza, NUads' senior product planner, hosts a YouTube video introducing the platform (below).
In his demo, de la Garza shows examples of how viewers can engage with typical TV ads using NUads technology. If you like a Coca-Cola commercial, you say "Xbox Tweet" aloud and a tweet prompt will pop up on screen. If you want to learn more about an Adidas commercial, you can say "Xbox More" and an e-mail prompt appears. Once you motion-click through, an e-mail from Adidas is instantly sent to your account.
I'd say it's a pretty cool development, but I'm not sure I'd necessarily use it myself. I usually PVR all my TV shows, just so I can avoid having to watch the commercials. So advertisers would be hard pressed to get me to change my habits to even watch the ads, let alone interact with them.
Most of the cool TV ads I see, I come across on Facebook or Twitter and watch on YouTube. I'm not even watching them on TV. If I like them, I share them on my smartphone or on my computer. Same with if I want to look up more information related to an ad campaign: I Google it. It's easier that way.
The challenge for Microsoft and their partner advertisers will be to pull viewers away from their mobile and online sharing habits and, instead, getting them to use Kinect and NUads to interact with ads in real time. From my experience, unless it's for live sports, on-demand TV beats real-time every time.
NUads didn't change television as we knew it. YouTube and PVR did.