The company was recently awarded a patent that puts forth an idea for pay-per-gaze advertising — a way in which people interacting with ads in the real world could be analyzed in the digital world. A NY Times blog took a look at how it would work with advertisers—because you can’t “click” with Google Glass views.
In the patent, which was filed in May 2011 and granted last week, Google claims that “a head-mounted gaze tracking device” — presumably Google Glass — would send images and the direction the person wearing the device was looking to a server. The system would then identify real-world ads that the person wearing the gadget had seen, allowing Google to then charge the advertiser.
“Pay-per-gaze advertising need not be limited to online advertisements, but rather can be extended to conventional advertisement media including billboards, magazines, newspapers and other forms of conventional print media,” states the patent, which was discovered by Fast Company.
As Google notes in the filing, advertisers can be charged a fee based on whether a person looks directly at an ad in the real world, and the fee can change based on how long they interact with the ad.
Eye-tracking ads are not unprecedented. Companies including Umoove, Tobii Technology and Cube26 already offer technology to track eye movements, gestures and even emotional responses to advertising.
Google does not show any advertising in Glass. It goes so far as to forbid app developers from selling apps or ads, too. But there have been hints that Google will eventually show ads, its core business, and the company has consistently said it expects Glass to be profitable.
One of the first places to expect ads is through Google Now, the predictive search app that shows information without the user asking for it and is particularly suited to Glass. It does not yet show ads, but they are expected.
“The better we can provide information, even without you asking for it, the better we can provide commercial information people are excited to be promoting to you,” Larry Page, Google’s chief executive, said in April, though he did not mention Glass specifically.
Of course, a Google patent would not be complete without some reference to search. The filing also presents the idea for “augmented search results” where a person looking at an image in the real world could see additional virtual information based on a search query.
When Google Glass was first announced last year, virtual reality experts noted that prototype versions of similar wearable computers had taken advertisements in the real world and replaced them with virtual ads.
Google Glass is “going to change real-world advertising, where companies can virtually place ads over other people’s ads,” said William Brinkman, graduate director of the computer science and software engineering department at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
However, Google also said in a statement that it did not plan to actually build products based on the eye-tracking patent in the immediate future.
“We hold patents on a variety of ideas,” the company said. “Some of those ideas later mature into real products or services, some don’t. Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patents.”