Well this is creepy. You already know you’re under surveillance when you enter your local department store but did you ever think the store would enlist mannequins to keep an eye on you? A few locations are testing out specially fitted mannequins that aren’t made for spotting shoplifters but use facial-recognition software to give owners data about their shoppers’ age, gender, and race.
“Any software that can help profile people while keeping their identities anonymous is fantastic,” said Uché Okonkwo, executive director of consultant Luxe Corp in what’s probably the opposite of what most of you are thinking about this right now. It “could really enhance the shopping experience, the product assortment, and help brands better understand their customers.”
The technology is called EyeSee and is similar to what some airports use to identify criminals. They’re being produced by Italian mannequin maker Almax SpA and cost around $5,000 each. So far five retailers are trying out a few dozen of them. Technology like this is already used in overhead cameras but the company says these give better results because they’re on eye-level with consumers.
Bloomberg cites some of the success they’ve had. “The mannequin, which went on sale last December and is now being used in three European countries and the U.S., has led one outlet to adjust its window displays after revealing that men who shopped in the first two days of a sale spent more than women, according to Almax. A clothier introduced a children’s line after the dummy showed that kids made up more than half its mid-afternoon traffic, the company says. Another store found that a third of visitors using one of its doors after 4 p.m. were Asian, prompting it to place Chinese-speaking staff by that entrance.”
Telling is the fact that the stores using the tech aren’t jumping up and down to admit it. In fact, some have purposely said they are not, like Nordstom and Burberry. A spokesperson for Norstrom said, “It’s a changing landscape but we’re always going to be sensitive about respecting the customer’s boundaries.” Bloomberg writes, “Watching people solely for commercial gain may break the rules and could be viewed as gathering personal data without consent, says Christopher Mesnooh, a partner at law firm Field Fisher Waterhouse in Paris.”
If the thought of this freaks you out, it gets worse. “Almax is testing technology that recognizes words to allow retailers to eavesdrop on what shoppers say about the mannequin’s attire,” says Bloomberg. “[Chief Executive Officer Max] Catanese says the company also plans to add screens next to the dummies to prompt customers about products relevant to their profile, much like cookies and pop-up ads on a website.”
Reminds me of the future we saw in Minority Report.