Truth can sometimes be stranger than fan fiction.
In one of The Onion's funniest video clips yet, Google's
The clip begins innocently enough, with two people discussing lunch plans. An ad for the Sonny's barbecue chain breaks into the conversation. However, it culminates in a frenetic 911 call, where a husband trying to report a car crash is interrupted by an ad for a new Tacoma in describing the accident and a spot for romantic getaways when he explains that his wife isn't moving.
The notion of an automaton monitoring conversations to whisper relevant ads or serve up marketing jingles as ringtones is creepy, but plausible. One also has to wonder if a contextual marketing injection would be enough to subsidize data plans, making smartphones affordable to the wireless masses.
In other words, the spot is funny only because it's potentially possible.
Comedy can sometimes be pretty spot-on.
A few years ago, I wrote about the pre-show for the Terminator attraction at the Universal Studios theme park. The clip -- originally filmed in the 1990s -- shows how robotics have taken over our lives in its vision of tomorrow. It was laughably Jetson-ian at the time, but most of the futuristic innovations presented exist today.
Let's go over some of the segments.
- Education. A teacher isn't just educating pupils in the room, but students remotely as well. Obviously this isn't science fiction anymore. Apollo's
(Nasdaq: APOL)University of Phoenix is the largest of web-based campuses.
- Entertainment. An elderly woman is frustrated at the plethora of programming choices available through her television. "If you can't decide what to watch," the voiceover explains, "the television will decide for you." Well, TiVo's
(Nasdaq: TIVO)been doing this for year. Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX)also offers up custom-tailored DVD recommendations for its subscribers.
- Health care. A surgeon is shown performing an operation, virtually, from the comfort of his beach chair. Telemedicine is all too real these days. Intuitive Surgical's
(Nasdaq: ISRG)da Vinci is a robotic surgical arm that performs rudimentary incisions. Surgeons man the contraption in the operating room, but they are less fatigued. You also have Nighthawk Radiology, where radiologists several time zones away can diagnose X-ray results.
So I laughed to the point of tears at The Onion's clip -- and then realized it's not entirely out of reason. Replace the voice ads with less intrusive sponsored spots and it all begins to fall into place.
Will ads ever get to the "Minority Report" point of customization and immersion? Shares your thoughts in the comment box below.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz laughs at the future, but only in retrospect. He does own shares of Netflix. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.