A new Boston startup called Robodisplay is revving up plans to provide software technology for self-driving advertising displays.
The startup – which launched in December – is essentially creating the “brains” for billboards on wheels, including the software that drives the vehicles and that figures out who’s viewing the ads and for how long.
The startup’s products could be used to power self-driving billboards that change ads depending on their proximity to shops or businesses, provide ad revenue for vehicles carrying shipments and deliveries and provide detailed data on who’s looking, said Alexander Terzian, founder of Robodisplay.
“Think about … your website … and how you’re able to provide metrics to advertisers on how many unique visitors, how many pages they view, etcetera,” said Terzian. “We’re trying to achieve that same process, but in the physical world.”
“Think about your website and how you’re able to provide metrics to advertisers… We’re trying to achieve that same process, but in the physical world.”
The idea behind the technology, he said, is to allow “marketers the ability to deploy targeted advertisements to self-driving vehicles from a remote dashboard.”
“You could have the ad transition every hour, every minute – so let’s say [your billboard is] a block away from a new restaurant that just opened up in Boston, an ad could be positioned, saying, ‘Hey, check out [our restaurant] on State Street, it’s just a block away.’”
Terzian said he and a small team have been working on the technology since 2016 and filed for several provisional applications for patents last year, when they put the pedal to the metal on operations, officially forming Robodisplay.
Fueled mostly by private funds, the company has not yet sought outside capital, though Terzian said he would likely veer toward venture investors down the road as autonomous vehicles become more commonplace. The path for self-driving car technology has been a bumpy one, with high-profile accidents, such the Uber crash in Arizona in March that claimed the life of a person crossing the street with a bicycle.
Terzian, who’s in his 30s, said he got into the startup business after toying with computers and software for years, though he attended the University of Massachusetts-Boston for sociology.
“I had a friend and he was a hacker in middle school,” said Terzian, “and he taught me the basics of coding and Python” programming language.
Paving the way for Robodisplay, he said, was the prior launch of an app called SalonPick, which helps users connect with salons and stylists and review their portfolios.