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This Social Credit-Style Digital Currency App Tracks User Eye Movements to Ensure Ads are Watched

Published: March 22, 2022
MoviePass will pay a digital currency redeemable only for movies in exchange for users watching ads enforced by facial recognition and eyeball tracking technology.
MoviePass Founder Stacy Spikes attends the 2019 Urbanworld Film Festival in New York City. Spikes revealed his plans for a revival of his brainchild, a movie streaming app powered by web3 technology that offers showtime in exchange for watching ads. (Image: J. COUNTESS/Getty Images)

MoviePass, a discount movie ticketing service terminated in 2019, has come back as an thinly-veiled social credit and digital currency app that keeps track of customers’ eye movements to ensure they keep their spectacles where they belong: on advertisements, in exchange for digital currency that can be redeemed only on movies. 

“It’s a way to close that loop and make it far more efficient of a system,” Stacy Spikes, MoviePass co-founder, said at an event dedicated to launching the new service on Feb. 10, according to Motherboard.

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Spikes stressed that the goal is to distribute pre-programmed digital currency that can only be spent on movies in exchange for user obedience.

“Part of the direction we’re doing from a web3 perspective is, this is happening only on your phone, uniquely to you, and the credits that are earned are your credits that go into your virtual wallet that you get to spend,” he said, characterizing their tokens as “your own money.”

Eyeball-tracking technology

The system uses both facial recognition technology and eyeball tracking software to check whether the user is still watching his phone’s display.

“As I’m looking at it, it’s playing back,” Spikes said during the presentation, demonstrating how the app actually works. “But if I stop and I’m not paying attention to it, it actually pauses the content.”

“We had an early version of this where you know what happened. People put the phone down and left and didn’t pay any attention to it. Right now, 70 percent of video advertising is unseen,” he continued.

“This is a way that advertisers get the impact they’re looking for, but you’re also getting the impact yourself.”

How it began

MoviePass originated as a movie ticketing service in 2011 and had quite a bit of success after introducing a flat rate for subscribers, for which they could watch an unlimited amount of movies per month, although the concept never was actually sustainable. 

Website The Wrap reported that after a majority share was obtained by analytics firm Helios and Matheson in 2017, Spikes was ousted, reportedly over a disagreement arising from an intended price reduction of the flat-rate subscription from well over $50 to $10 per month, a policy that led to the platform’s bankruptcy in January of 2020.

Web3 technology

However, Spikes repurchased his company in November last year and announced a re-launch of his brainchild, but this time in the shape of a movie streaming app “powered by web3 technology.”

Web3 utilizes techniques like non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and cryptocurrency in a decentralized blockchain network, making it possible for clients to, in theory, become co-owner in the venture and have their say in decision making or earn benefits such as a lifetime prime membership; a concept described by Spikes as a “co-op.”