Rise of the Mannequins

Italian mannequin manufacturer Almax is developing specially designed mannequin models that come equipped with custom made software that allows it to observe and record surrounding customer activity.

(Queue monotonous national-geographic voice-over dudes voice… ) “The native consumer goes about it’s daily routine in relative peace, hunting in the local department stores and shopping malls, foraging for food at the nearest food court and engaging in the ceaseless yapping that so defines their species.  However, (Queue dramatic music…) unbeknownst to these peaceful creatures, a new and terrifying threat has risen and is lurking within the aisles of the very territory they call home. The name of this monstrous evil is one the consumers will soon come to know and dread, they call it…the EyeSee Mannequin!”

All kidding aside, the development of the EyeSee mannequin by Italian design firm Almax, has raised some concern amongst the general public due to the models somewhat creepy ability to record customer activity via high-tech cameras hidden in the mannequins eyes.

If pressed on the matter, retailers using these EyeSee mannequin models will no doubt claim ‘shoplift prevention’ as their first line of defense, but the ramifications of this technology go way beyond that of harmless security surveillance.

Bloomberg reports that the EyeSee mannequins are being used to track and collect customer data, and currently “a few dozen” have been employed in stores in Europe and the United States. Each model costs $5,130 and looks stereotypical from the outside, complete with a polystyrene frame and a blank face.

Inside, however, a camera embedded in one eye sends data to facial-recognition software which is used by the police to track criminals. Instead, this software logs the age, race and gender of shoppers.

Almax says that because the mannequins are specially designed to stand at the eye level to the average customer, it can give corporations and market trend analysts a better idea of customer habits and allow them to feature their products accordingly. As an example, one outlet changed their window displays after data suggested men who shopped in the early days of a sale spent more than women.

Understandably, the technology has already generated considerable opposition. Foremost amongst them is attorney Christopher Mesnooh, a partner at Parisian law firm Field Fisher Waterhouse, who believes that spying on consumers purely for commercial rather than security gains may break U.S. and E.U. privacy regulations.

“If you go on Facebook, before you start the registration process, you can see exactly what information they are going to collect and what they’re going to do with it,” Mesnooh told the publication. “If you’re walking into a store, where’s the choice?”

So the next time you walk into your favorite department store, catch the eye of the nearest male or female mannequin and before you ask yourself just what is going on behind those perfect fiberglass facade, ask yourself this; “do I really want to know…”.

Beware the eye in the sky…

Beware the rise of the mannequins!


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