May 2009 "Haptic Jingle" and Pervasive Advertising 2009



Earlier this week I attended a Pervasive 2009 workshop on Pervasive Advertising I organized with Jörg Müller, University of Münster, Albrecht Schmidt, University of Duisburg-Essen and Bo Begole, PARC. My postgraduate student Ross Shannon presented two papers on our ideas and developments in this space. There were some very interesting and thought provoking presentations and all the participants fully engaged with the full program of events from presentations to actual working sessions.

During Pervasive Advertising 2009 we discussed not only means of showing dynamically updated content, but also means to react implicitly and explicitly to the audience in its vicinity. In order to interact with the target audience, technologies need to be explored that are capable of identifying the user or their interests/needs. It's clear (for good or bad) advertising is becoming one of the major deployers of pervasive computing technology for many end-users (e.g. mobile ads, digital signs, context awareness, RFID etc.).

On a side note, given a quick survey online I am going to lay claim to coining a new term, namely "Haptic Jingle". This is a pretty simple but I think powerful idea.

Consider all the products we know and use on a regular basis. There are now many products which have well known catch phrases or audio jingles. Typically when we hear such phrases or jingles we automatically recall and associate this with the product or service. Now, I'm not making a value judgment on if this is a good or a bad thing but it did give me the idea for what I call a "Haptic Jingle".

A Haptic Jingle is a particular shake or pulse pattern which we physically experience when we touch a particular object and hence associate with a product/company/service. A company could build such haptic feedback into their products or sales spaces e.g. "I'm loving it" translates to a low key vibration with two or three pulses which match with the inflection points in the associated audio or written phrase. This haptic pattern can then be embedded into physical objects we interact with in public space such as door handles. In the future imagine the scenario of moving into a store, you pull the handle, feel the haptic jingle and then think, yes, yes, I do want a Starbucks Latte. If this strikes you as a worrying idea then stay informed and advocate against it happening!

However, as a scientist I am curious about the range of modalities and multi-modalities which can be employed for information delivery. Be this for advertising or other important elements of information.


During the workshop we were all acutely aware that our physical environment is becoming ever more overloaded with man made objects. At one point our sub-group moved to sit and work in the Nara park where we were based for Pervasive 2009. This inspired us to recall what the late Mark Weiser said. "Ubiquitous computers will help overcome the problem of information overload. There is more information available at our fingertips during a walk in the woods than in any computer system, yet people find a walk among trees relaxing and computers frustrating. Machines that fit the human environment, instead of forcing humans to enter theirs, will make using a computer as refreshing as taking a walk in the woods."


This motivated us to consider this question. Could we weave pervasive advertising into the current park environment as a source of information you might want? Could Pervasive Advertising provide information so the overall experience was "refreshing"? As described in our call for papers in this session we took a positive view to envision advertisements that precisely match a person’s interests and fit the current situation so well that people enjoy receiving them and see advertising as relevant information or a pleasant distraction. During the course of the workshop we also came across many concerns shown in the negative view. One can easily imagine a world where people cannot escape from advertisements, where we are continuously tracked and where advertisements reduce the quality of life.

The overall outcomes from the workshop include, areas of concern from the scientific to the social issues, a number of positive and negative scenarios, a set of small scale research projects and a set of large group projects. The workshop organisers have decided to put together a book on Pervasive Advertising with sections on the various technologies, social and legal issues which will be documented and discussed.

The workshop was an excellent venue for a full and frank discussion on both positive and negative issues and key scientific research challenges.

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