“A really fun, magical use of the webcam.” —Troy Lachance
“Sustained storytelling while channel-surfing with your eyes? What’s not to love?” —Ana Serrano
Overview: When you’ve already got a cell phone plan, you’re not likely to pay much attention to other offers, no matter how good they might be. Virgin Mobile’s Blinkwashing, an interactive YouTube experience that reacts to the blink of an eye, solves that problem by surprising the viewer into watching. It works by enabling a person’s webcam to scan for eye location and movement to accurately detect when a viewer blinks. Then, with every blink, the video on screen switches, while the dialogue continues uninterrupted. The ad is made up of 25 different films, all perfectly synced for a seamless transition between clips. Mother New York, working with Greencard Pictures and rehabstudio, created completely new technology to let viewers blink their way through an endlessly changing stream of videos detailing the benefits of switching to Virgin Mobile.
• The project was completed in about four months, with the majority of that time being spent refining the technology.
• The clip a viewer sees after blinking is randomly selected from among the 25 different films.
Comments by Mother New York:
How does the technology function? “The technology first scans your face and locates your eyes. When you blink during the calibration process, it detects the pixel changes between your eyes when open and your eyes when closed. Then, every time it recognizes that you are blinking during the experience, it randomly changes to another video, picking up the script where the last video left off.”
Are there any other technical features you’d like to call attention to? “We spent a lot of time getting the video loading and cueing to work properly and buffer. We had to come up with methods to jump the playhead to keep all the videos synced up. Also, we had to figure out the right number of video players to layer into the YouTube experience.”
What was the response? “We earned around 52 million media impressions across industry and pop culture channels, plus lots of social sharing. There were around 120,000 unique visitors in the first few days, with a lot of repeat visitors watching Blinkwashing for a substantial amount of time. It was a great opportunity for us to create new technology for an idea. We were able to invent a completely new way for people to interact with Virgin Mobile, which was very special for everyone involved.”