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Wed, 29 Jan 14

The Toutification of Everything

English has a wonderful tendency to take French and other loan-words, mutate their meaning, apply Latin suffixes and through some semi-regular transformations bring forth a novelty. Thus toutification.

tout (verb): attempt to sell something, typically by pestering people in an agressive or bold manner. (noun): a person soliciting customers or business, in such manner

It is not yet in the Oxford dictionary, but if enough of you read this, and many more use it, perhaps, some day, toutification will join forces with its little friend gamification.

Its Wikipedia entry would state: > Toutification is the use of tout-like personas and advertising techniques > across virtual and into physical contexts.

Most of you readers are likely inured to advertising. Some of you may have active measures in place against ads. Advertising is seen as a necessary - though imperfect - mechanism to support writers, developers and producers, while reading articles, using software or getting entertained for free. And it works for the most part, to the great benefit of all three parties in these transactions.

Alas, these transactions are not transient. The video you watched may be forgettable, the link you clicked may be irrelevant. But you can be sure that dozens of trackers observed your visit. They will remember it, cross-reference it, build it into a whole ball of wax. It can be annoying to be followed around the Internet for a month or more by ads and offers because you clicked something on a lark.

Now imagine if, not just content with flashing monkeys on screens, persuasion got physical.

Bring it on, you say. You have bisected bustling bazaars, striding with a stern visage sans eye contact. You have a knack for silencing taxi drivers touting some hotel or fancy. You can deflect your tour guide’s attempt to detour by a shop. But, can you overcome someone who knows all about you and your weaknesses and has total physical control?

Far-fetched fantasy? Well, say hello to John Anderton.

From Microsoft Research, some use cases for AI in the environment:

If your environment knows, for example, that it’s lunch time, that you had spoken yesterday about having lunch with a colleague on the second floor, and that it notices that you seem to be now leaving your office to go to the elevator, the elevator can be smart enough to take you, without your need to operate anything, to your colleague.

Google and BMW are much further along in autonomous cars.

On a future road trip, your robot car decides to take a new route, driving you past a Krispy Kreme Doughnut shop. A pop-up window opens on your car’s display and asks if you’d like to stop at the store. “Don’t mind if I do,” you think to yourself. You press “yes” on the touchscreen, and the autonomous car pulls up to the shop.

Alright, I admit, its not dire yet. The first is just researchers touting their socially awkward technology. They may or may not have cleared it with Microsoft’s PR folks. The second is just speculation. To think that such transportation would serve as an Ad-word-esque platform to bid on traffic is a bit too - logical.

Right. Toutification. Remember, you read it here first.

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