Freesteel Blog » Still addicted to doing stuff

Still addicted to doing stuff

Monday, August 18th, 2008 at 8:04 pm Written by:

And I ran out of easy places to contribute to on Wikipedia, such as United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur, United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia, United Nations Integrated Office in Sierra Leone, United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone, and Timeline of the 2008 South Ossetia war; and so surfed around on the UN News Centre.

Naturally, there wasn’t anything about all the pro bono work I have so far done accessibilizing the official documents in a cumulatively constructive way that makes it possible to find out what the processes are, who’s operating them, and discover what’s been going on over the past decade to get us to the way things are now. After all, I am merely a programmer.

What I did find was a press release about how an… Innovative UN awareness-raising campaign earns prestigious Cannes award:

15 July 2008 – A groundbreaking United Nations campaign that uses the latest technology to give a voice to those who normally go unheard has been recognized by one of the world’s leading international advertising festivals.

“United Nations Voices,” (Internet Explorer only) which was designed pro bono for the UN Information Centre in Canberra by Saatchi & Saatchi, Australia, was awarded a Bronze Lion in the 2008 Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, held in France last month.

I’ve added those links myself to improve connectivity.

Although bronze is not as prestigious as gold or silver, if you’re an ad company you know how to place your free advertising into the UN news feed in the hope that people will forgive you for delivering us Margaret Thatcher in 1979, as well as tonnes of other evil.

The material is a large colour poster of a face which you photograph with your mobile phone, email the picture to a particular phone number, and then you get phoned back with a recorded message from the featured “voiceless” person. The functionality could have been implemented by texting a key-word to the particular phone number instead of the digital photograph, or frigging it by using different phone numbers on each poster and ignoring the image (they didn’t do this).
Meanwhile, their March press release when they ran the ad campaign in Sydney, Australia is here, a blog about the campaign with lots of comments is here, and according to this posting the vital stats are:

The United Nations wanted to find an engaging way of talking to modern day Australians, particularly the youth, and making them aware of the many and varied issues in today’s multi-cultural society.

The problem is the people who really need to be heard are the ones who don’t normally have a voice. So by using revolutionary digital image recognition technology we could make a poster and press ad talk for the very first time and actually give everyone a voice.

In a small market like Australia, over a 2 week period, more than 35,000 people “listened” – making this the country’s most successful UN brand campaign to date. Due to its overwhelming success next year the UN is going to roll it out globally in all major cities.

And now, the credits:

Advertising Agency: SAATCHI & SAATCHI, Sydney, Australia
Executive Creative Directors: Steve Back, David Nobay
Copywriters / Art Directors: Steve Jackson, Vince Lagana
Photographers: Sean Izzard, Petrina Hicks, Scott Newett
Producer: Kate Whitfield
Art Buyers: Olivia Wilson, Danni Simpson, Skye Houghton
CEO: Simone Bartley
Account Supervisors: Bree Lennon, Stephen Lacy, James Tracey-Inglis
Head Of Digital & Direct: Paul Worboys
Image Technology: Hyperfactory
Image Technology: Mobot
Creative Group Head, Digital: Brian Merrifield
Director: Ralph Van Dijk, Eardrum
Photographers: Tim Gibbs, David Knight, Daniel Smith

According to the technologist’s website:

Mobot has developed a powerful, scalable, and flexible patent-pending solution which relies on image recovery, pattern recognition, and image matching capability ‘in the cloud.’ Cognitive science research has shown that the human brain uses blobs to recognize objects, that is, your brain does not use sharp edges to determine that a table is a table or a face is face. Mobot applies algorithms patterned after these methods to solve the problem of mobile visual search. Mobot has built a best in class solution through a combination of invention, innovation, and tech licensing. Mobot has strong technology partnerships with leading edge companies. For example, Imagen’s technology and Evolution Robotics’ ViPR technology are components of Mobot’s visual search engine and help Mobot deliver state of the art pattern recognition.

Miraculously, the Google Patent search engine digs out what appears to be the correct patent application for the inventor “Zvi Haim Lev” based on the term “mobot”, although this made-up word appears nowhere in the text.

It’s all pretty standard computer vision processing, done with a lot of elbow grease and efforts to handle occlusion and gauss filtering to handle the low quality resulting from the JPEG crappiness of the camera phone images.

As it’s a case of unnecessary technology used unobtrusively, it’s doing no harm. In the future the real advertising applications will be to make the cameras point outwards from the poster at the people so it can speak to you messages depending on who you are on determining your demographic status according to the branded products you choose to clothe your body in, with the eventual result the world described in the 1954 Philip K Dick story Sales Pitch.

Meanwhile, back in the world where things need to get done, not only sold, one can wonder what this campaign was actually trying to sell. “Raising awareness” is such a vague term, if none of those people whose awareness is raised never stand a change in finding out what they can do. The point of these vast PR companies is to (a) move product (make you spend money on profitable crap), (b) get votes (sabotage the democratic process), and (c) manage concern (prevent people from taking effective action).

This particular campaign is attempting to achieve (c). Thanks for all the help and encouragement, folks. Maybe I should just go home and pick the marrows.

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