One of the trends mentioned in much of our research is the ever growing volume of embedded software. The size and complexity of code bases continue to swell while new products relying on embedded software are introduced seemingly daily. Although no one here at VDC Research is likely to be branded a luddite, there are some applications of embedded software that make us question, “is that too far?”
Is That Thing Watching Me?
I recently came across such an example being used in, of all places, the world of high-end retail fashion. Almax, an Italian mannequin maker, has a product line called the EyeSee. These mannequins, already in use at few unnamed retailers, include an embedded camera behind one of the dummy’s eyes feeding data to facial recognition software. This software provides information about the number, gender, race, and approximate age of people passing by, as well as how long these potential customers lingered around the display and at what time of day. Almax and their technology partner, Kee Square, tout the software as being able to provide “statistical and contextual information useful to the development of targeted marketing strategies.” Apparently, stores are already using this information to adjust the shopping experience at their stores to more aim more directly at the specific types of customers they are attracting. As part of the product development roadmap, the company is even evaluating equipment able to listen in on customer conversations for key words and adding screens nearby to display merchandise pertinent to their profile.
VDC’s embedded hardware team recently blogged on intelligent signage that does much the same as the EyeSee. But a sign watching us seems different. So far, the consensus among people I’ve spoken with about the EyeSee is that the idea of mannequins watching and listening to us is well…a bit unsettling.