The Mannequins Have Eyes

Almax Mannequins

Image source The Daily Mail online

As if mannequins weren’t creepy enough, now some dummies are watching you shop. To the untrained eye, the $5,130 EyeSee dummy looks like any other mannequin, with its polystyrene exterior and frozen pose. But don’t be fooled – now the motionless model could be spying on you. Behind its blank stare hides a camera, with the same facial recognition technology used to spot criminals in airports. In this case, the technology is used to record shopper’s behavior, logging their age, gender, and race, and documenting how long they shop and how much time they spend around certain displays. The information is meant to offer retailers information to help build strategic marketing campaigns. Italian mannequin maker Almax claims that “From now on you can know how many people enter the store, record what time there is a greater influx of customers (and which type) and see if some areas risk to be overcrowded.” While video profiling is nothing new, Almax boasts that the mannequins offer better data by standing at eye level with shoppers.

Since its introduction in December, Benetton is one of the few retailers to put the models to use. While confidentiality agreements deny Almax’s CEO, Max Catanese, from disclosing the rest of the companies, the device is now used in the U.S., Canada, and two European countries by five leading fashion brands, and has changed the way the retailers put together their window displays, floor layouts, and promotions, reports Bloomberg. One retailer found that kids accounted for over half of afternoon traffic, and introduced an entire children’s line in response. Another placed Chinese-speaking staff by an entrance after learning that a third of visitors using the door after 4pm were Asian (Side note: Are all Asian people Chinese? These mannequins must be racist!).

What’s next? Well, Almax plans to update the technology so that the mannequins can listen to what customers are saying about the clothes on display, and hopes to add screens next to the dummies allowing them to act as digital sales people, prompting customers about products based on their profile. Sounds like a more annoying, digital version of a pushy salesperson to me.

While some privacy campaigners are enraged by the unknown spies, Almax contends that the models don’t invade privacy, as the cameras are “blind,” only collecting information about shoppers, rather than images. Burberry and Nordstrom are among the retailers who aren’t buying it, claiming that the software goes too far. As for me, I’m all for anything that allows my favorite retailers to better cater to my needs, but I’m wary of holiday shopping while mannequins record my every move. I must admit… whether we’re talking Homeland Security or a better retail database, this sends a shiver up my spine that has nothing to do with Jack Frost nipping at my nose. So, this year, I may just steer clear of the mall to Christmas shop online in the privacy of my own home.

Posted by Katie

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