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Can companies beam advertisements into my brain?


Are these grocery shoppers looking out for invasive advertising?
Are these grocery shoppers looking out for invasive advertising?
B2M Productions/Getty Images

Most futuristic, dystopian science fiction movies have their share of problems. Common themes often include, but aren't limited to, tyrannical robot armies, apocalyptic natural disasters and oppressive, dictatorial governments. Science fiction doesn't always provide simple, escapist entertainment with no connection to our world -- some of the best and most prescient look at the issues of the present and craft an imaginary future.

­If the movies are any indication, the threat of invasive advertising is something that comes along with the future. In Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner," released in 1982, detective Rick Deckard, played by Harrison Ford, lurks through a futuristic Los Angeles of the year 2019, where massive, floating billboards loom over the city's dark, bustling streets. Stephen Spielberg's "Minority Report," released in 2002 and set in 2054, ups the ante -- shopping malls use a high-tech form of interactive advertising, which identifies customers by eye-scan personally and acknowledges their past purchases. Both movies are adaptations of stories by science fiction writer Philip K. Dick.

By the time we reach Pixar's 2008 animated feature "WALL-E," the human race has left an over-polluted Earth and floats around space onboard a luxury cruise ship. People have evolved into obese, childlike mammals, motoring about on all-access hover-chairs. The chairs, along with the towering billboards that line the ship, keep people's attention focused on advertising for the mega-corporation running the show, Buy 'N Large.

­­How prophetic are these examples? Do we have advertising methods available today that mirror science fiction? How would it be done? Read about a new advertising technique meant to catch your ear on the next page.