The Big Brother of retail

A recent article in Wired magazine explored some of the interesting, revolutionary and some may say frightening advances which could be employed in the next generation of retail and in store technology.

One which I found particularly fascinating was the use of face-tracking technology in order to specifically tailor in store advertising messages to customers.

Although reminiscent of the gadgets in a science fiction film, or the constant surveillance of Nineteen Eighty Four, this technology is already being used in parts of France and seems as if it could be implemented on a larger scale in the near future.

The thing that makes it particularly interesting is that normally these systems rely on the co-operation of the viewer, whereas this is different as the stand is fully aware of it’s audience and can make the necessary changes.

Paolo Prandini, from Quividi the design team behind the new face-tracking technology explains how the system works:

“At the core of the system is a face-detection algorithm that can tell whether a human face is actually looking towards the camera. Once we have locked onto that face, we can extract some information and features from it, such as gender and age group”

The technology can also tell how long the customer looks at the advertisement for and their basic demographics. This makes it an ideal tool in order to target specific messages at the right audience and keep them sufficiently engaged, but does raise some issues about privacy and exploitation.

I love the idea of in store retail technology advancing at high speeds in this manner but I can’t help wonder if we’re being far too intrusive in our use of advertising? I’m sure consumers will feedback to advertisers and retailers about how they feel about this if it does start to be implemented on a wider scale.

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