Virgin Mobile uses webcam to change YouTube ads every time you blink

Virgin Mobile has introduced what it called "BlinkWashing," an advertisement system of sorts that — with permission — uses your webcam to track your eyes while watching a YouTube video, causing the advertisement to change every time you blink. The company is showing off the feature on its YouTube page, where anyone with a webcam can try it out.

The feature works by instructing you, rather ominously, to "relax and approve your webcam," after which point users are presented with their face in a small video box. Once centered, the system takes a blink or two for calibration, then takes you to a video clip of a Virgin Mobile advertisement. Blinking during the video clip causes it to flip to a new one, theoretically whilst your eyes are closed.

Of course, you need to have a fast Internet connection for it to work that quickly, otherwise you'll see the video clip change a second or three after opening your eyes again. Still, the BlinkWashing technology seems to work well, having quickly flipped to the next clip with every blink, not failing at any point.

The question, then, is why Virgin Mobile has created and showcased such technology, and what the purpose of it is. In this case, it isn't so feasible for actual advertisement toggling, unless one fancies seeing only incomplete sections of advertisements that continually change with a blink. More likely, BlinkWashing foreshadows some sort of hands-free control system that works in conjunction with one's system webcam.

Or, perhaps, the mobile company just wanted the curious to watch a bunch of Virgin Mobile advertisements intently, hence the term "BlinkWashing" as a wink and nod towards brainwashing, in which case, it would seem the mission was accomplished.