High-tech photo booth tracks user behavior

The FanShots kiosk uses a depth-sensing camera to track the position of users' hands and bodies

A photo kiosk that can track user behavior using a Microsoft Kinect-like sensor and mine social data could help marketers gain valuable information about audiences at sporting events.

Mobile services company Mobiquity, based in Massachusetts, installed the first FanShots kiosk in the Sun Life Courtside Club at Boston's TD Garden for Celtics basketball fans to take pictures of themselves and share them across social media accounts. The private club holds about 50 people per game, and in the six home games so far this season about 260 fans have used the machine.

To see the FanShots kiosk in use at Boston's TD Garden, watch a video on YouTube.

Like a traditional photo booth, users stand in front of the unit and have a series of photographs taken. There's no print-out, though, since the images are emailed. Marketers can tell when the email is opened, who is opening it, who the image is being forwarded to and where the image ends up on social networks through unique hashtags.

Users agree to the terms of service at the end of the photo session when the picture is emailed. Email addresses aren't currently sold or stored for marketing purposes. During user interaction, the kiosk is watching its users with an Asus Xtion Pro motion and depth-sensing camera similar to a Kinect sensor.

"The sensor allows us to be able to track who is going by and who is approaching the device," said Skylar Roebuck, a product manager with Mobiquity. "You could create a skeleton of a person's body and you can track their hand. What could you do with that kind of functionality?"

Roebuck said there are a number of possibilities. For one, the machine could determine the traffic flow in a certain area. If it notices someone walking close to the machine it could call out to the passerby and try to lure him towards the machine.

It took the company about three months to go from concept to a finished product. The unit consists of an HP touchscreen computer, a Logitech webcam to take the photos and the Asus depth sensing camera. When fans come up to the device they'll initiate a sequence that will take four different photos of them and their friends. Before emailing the result they can add borders to the photo, which include Celtics mascot Lucky.

The kiosk installed at the Garden is wall-mounted, but Mobiquity has made a free standing version that could be placed in the main concourse of an arena, according to Roebuck. Future development plans include more direct hardware sourcing so that rather than being composed of three completely separate products, the product can be more tightly integrated.

Roebuck said that other arenas that host basketball and football games are considering installing the unit, but he wouldn't say which ones. The cost of the FanShots kiosk hasn't been announced.

Nick Barber covers general technology news in both text and video for IDG News Service. E-mail him at Nick_Barber@idg.com and follow him on Twitter at @nickjb.

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