Monday, September 27, 2010

In your ear, uninvited

Oh now, this is going a bit too far.

It's bad enough you can't read a news item online sometimes without a distracting pop-up ad completely blocking your text, and even more annoying when an actual voice starts hyping a product.  Volkeswagen marketing went one step farther; they've embedded voice chips in 2.2 million copies of the newspaper.

The Times of India and The Hindu, two of the largest circulated papers in the world, released a special advertisement in their daily papers Tuesday, launching Volkswagen's new sedan, the Vento.
When readers opened the paper to the back page, a light-sensitive, voice activated chip began reading out why you buy their new automobile. The "talking" advertisement — an audio rendering of the print commercial similar to a radio ad —was pasted on the final page of the paper's special 10-page section.

Unsuspecting readers bolted upright when the advertisement voice activation began. In many parts of the country there were unintended consequences from startled readers.  The police in Delhi received numerous calls, particularly from elderly Indians, who were frightened and suspicious of the talking newspaper. 

In Mumbai, the bomb squad was called out when passersby became suspicious of noises coming from discarded newspapers in trash bins. Some readers thought they were hearing the voice of a ghost. 

Source: here.

Voices from a trash bin--now that would startle me a bit.  The police chief asked people not to be afraid of new technology.  Some readers, upset when it rained and the newspaper got wet--which inactivated the voice chip--demanded a reprint in the next issue. 

Apparently this "talking advertisement" idea came from a 14-year-old niece of the head of marketing at Volkswagen India. [1]

It wouldn't be so bad if you could turn the darn thing off, i.e., not have it talk at you while you're reading the news.  Apparently it doesn't come with a warning: "Interruption Imminent: Turn page to avoid". But hey, why stop at the Internet and now, newspapers, for pop-up voice ads?

Imagine their being able to implant these little buggers onto junk snail mail, for example, which most people throw away.  The voice emanating from the envelope could plead:  "Wait a minute.  You don't want to do that.  I have important information to convey."  You won't, of course, fall for this, but they might try it anyway.
Why, they might even embed it in the pages of a book.  Say you're on page 475 of a novel and your eyes are getting tired.  Technology may one day make it possible for you to just press on the page corner and a recorded voice will ask you which page you're on, and when you reply, it will commence reading the rest of the book aloud to you.  (Don't laugh.  Science fiction today, reality tomorrow.)

Tired of writing your Congressman and getting only standard generic replies?   Senators and government reps are busy, they don't have time to read piles and piles of angry letters from disgruntled constituents.  But they have to leave the office sometime, right? and when they do, technology may someday make it possible for you to hurl a missile-type airborne voice chip that would sail across and land in their hair or on their shoulder, that will begin to lecture them:  "When are you going to start representing the people, instead of the mega corporations?  How come you have time to play golf three days a week but can't show up to vote on such-and-such-a bill?"  etc.

Of course, someone will most assuredly then start considering producing protective governmental outerware with the ability to detect an oncoming airborne voice chip and instantly deactivate it; or if that proved too unpopular, perhaps a simple, pocket-sized, portable AVCN (aerosol voice-chip neutralizer) that works similar to bug spray.

Whiny baby dolls, screechy musical greeting cards, talking cars, refrigerators, and now newspapers.  Please, please somebody don't get the bright idea to have our food someday talk back to us (Donuts that announce, for example: "Are you sure you want to eat me?  I contain 320 calories per bite.  Why not try an apple instead?", etc.).  I seriously doubt the Krispy Kreme people would ever consider such an idea, though.

I saw an old postcard today from 1903, an early "downtown" somewhere in Oklahoma, on the back of which someone had written:  "I have finally arrived."   I wonder from where, and how many days it took him to get there, and what such a person would think of our technology today.

What was missing from the talking newspaper that appeared in the above-mentioned Indian newspapers was the element of CHOICE.  Maybe not everyone wants to have an automobile ad barked to them while they're reading the news.  It breaks the concentration.  It's annoying.  Is no space sacred from these pushy marketers?  I am appalled at the lengths to which they will go to plug their products.   It gets less and less easy to avoid them.  What part about "Don't bother me when I'm reading!" do they not understand?


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