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December 11, 2012 • Gear Bits

Careful! That Mannequin Is Watching, Waiting, and Profiling

Admit it. You think department store mannequins are creepy. They stare ahead with their cold dead eyes, looking perfect and unnatural. No one in real life poses like that, and their dimensions often make Barbie look realistic.

At least they aren’t REALLY watching you…right? Sadly, Businessweek has popped that bubble of hope:

The EyeSee looks ordinary enough on the outside, with its slender polystyrene frame, blank face, and improbable poses. But inside, it’s no dummy. A camera in one eye feeds data into demographic-profiling software to determine the age, gender, and race of passersby.

The year-old device is designed for merchants who increasingly use technology to help personalize their offerings. “Any software that can help profile people while keeping their identities anonymous is fantastic,” says Uché Okonkwo, executive director of Paris-based consultant Luxe. It “could really enhance the shopping experience, the product assortment, and help brands better understand their customers.”

While some stores deploy similar technology to watch shoppers from overhead security cameras, Almax contends the EyeSee provides better data because it stands at eye level and invites customer attention. The mannequin led one store to tweak its window displays after revealing that men who shopped in the first two days of a sale spent more than women, according to Almax. 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. Catanese declined to name clients, citing confidentiality agreements at the 40-year-old mannequin maker.

Luckily, it sounds like very few places have deployed this technology, and many seem hesitant. Gee, who wouldn’t think it would be great to spy on their customers’ every move through mannequins? All I know is, this means that for now I only need to break out in a cold sweat at the idea of shopping in a department store, not being spied on too!

 

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