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EyeSee mannequins used to spy on shoppers, confirm paranoid fears

Nicole Lee, @nicole
11.20.12
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If you feel like you're being watched when you're shopping, you might be right. Some stores have apparently set up EyeSee mannequins that have a camera embedded into one eye. It then feeds data into facial-recognition software, and would log age, gender and race of the people it sees. The original rationale of such technology was to identify criminals in places like the airport, but retailers are apparently now using it to personalize store offerings. For example, one store found that a lot of shoppers after 4 pm were Asian, so it placed Chinese-speaking staff by the entrance at that time. Made by Italian mannequin maker Almax SpA, the EyeSee went on sale last December and is currently in use in three European countries as well as the US, though major chains like Benetton Group, Nordstrom and Burberry have stated they have not implemented them. Future mannequins might even have the ability to "eavesdrop" on passers-by, allowing store owners to hear what they have to say about the mannequin's outfit. It's not quite as unnerving as see-through security cams and that Japanese android mannequin, but it'll still make us avoid a mannequin's stare the next time we head to the shops.

Update: Benetton Group SpA has emailed us to let us know none of its stores has employed the use of the EyeSee mannequins mentioned in the story. We've updated the post to reflect that.

[Image Credit: Elvert Barnes, Flickr]

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