UPenn team has developed a tool for minimizing our exposure to corporate imagery
A group of Pennsylvania students is sick of being bombarded with logos, and decided to hack the problem. The result — composed of custom hardware and open-source software — is a personal guard against ads and corporate insignia, and is being described as “AdBlock for Real Life.”
With 36 hours and a budget of under $100 at their disposal, UPenn undergrads Tom Catullo, Alex Crits-Christoph, Jonathan Dubin, and Reed Rosenbluth created the innovative Brand Killer, a custom headset using openCV image processing to detect and blur out logos in a user’s vision.
The group developed the live-censoring device as part of the university’s PennApps Winter 2015 hack-a-thon, and was partly inspired by an episode of Black Mirror — a next-gen Twlight Zone-type dystopian drama in which characters are able to edit persons out of their own vision in real-time.
“We talked about how we thought the idea was pretty cool, albeit scary,” Catullo explained, and “thought about the ways in which augmented reality could empower the user.”
Recognizing a shared annoyance with an overabundance of ads and logos in their daily lives, the group settled on the idea of creating a real-time ad blocker as their way of attempting to “dampen the overwhelming presence of corporate influence [on] the average person.”
As the group’s video exhibits, the final product is able to detect, identify, and blur out obtrusive brand logos in a user’s vision. While the team notes that the $80 homemade headset is currently too unwieldy for everyday use, they’re glad to have established that their techniques are easily accessible and implemented, and are interested in scaling down the device.
Crits-Cristoph explained that the project “was created to demonstrate the potential of current technology in augmented reality, and to make a point and start a conversation about the prevalence of corporate branding in society today.” He added,
People feel helpless against the dominance of ads in society today. I think that the response the project has been so overwhelming because it has helped people imagine a world in which technology like this is used to empower individuals as one that is not too far off.