The University of Pennsylvania‘s winter hackathon, PennApps, is now over, and we’re not surprised to see a few VR experiences in the winners circle. Brand Killer, an application running on a custom-built VR headset, was unfortunately not among them, but there’s no denying that the idea behind the Adblock-inspired app is equally brilliant as it is subversive.
Created by a team of students led by UPenn Computer Science undergrad Jonathan Dubin, Brand Killer wants to become the “AdBlock for Real Life,” using a custom-built VR headset and camera, that much like the popular Chrome extension aims to entirely rid the user of visual advertisements, effectively stamping out all traces of “the excesses of corporate branding” (their words, not ours).
The team does this by using the SIFT (Scale-invariant feature transform) computer vision algorithm to translate the visual data into identifiable objects, matching them frame-by-frame with their own database of logos and advertisements. A blurred window is then applied to cover the packaging’s smiling cartoon faces and bright colors, which could make that can of dog food in your pantry into a meaty surprise for anyone unlucky enough to wear the device full time.
And while augmented reality comes closer to the public psyche with Microsoft’s newly announced HoloLens, we can’t help but think that apps like Brand Killer will eventually find their way onto future AR devices too. Due to the widespread use of AdBlock, the logical underpinnings for mass adoption of a real-time version are already there, especially if you’ve seen ’80s cult flick They Live (1988) where a young “Rowdy” Roddy Piper stumbles upon a box of magical sunglasses that can lift the veil on society’s consumerist culture, only to reveal that the world has been infiltrated by an alien landing party—a reference likely to be reused ad nauseum as AR comes into its own.
But then again, if you don’t like it, you’ll probably be able to block that too.