There has always been something creepy about mannequins. Their featureless faces, awkward limbs and silent, lurking presence is more than a little disquieting. But it turns out there’s a whole new element of creepiness to them.
Modern mannequins are being manufactured to keep an eye on you.
These mannequins are fitted with a camera programmed with a biometric facial analysis system, similar to those found in high-tech security systems, designed with the help of The Engineer and Design University of Milan.
Customer details that the EyeSee mannequin picks up include their age range, gender, ethnicity and even the time they spend looking at each product or display. These details are used to create statistical profiles of customers which are then used to maximise the effectiveness of the store layout and stock.
Now, Almax claims that this is not a privacy issue because the data is processed in real time, so it doesn’t require any images or biometric data being sent or saved, but it still feels ultra creepy. Stores are allowed to film customers if they have a CCTV licence and tell customers they are being filmed, but it’s still dubious whether filming people – whether or not it’s being recorded and whether you inform them – purely for commercial gain is ethically sound.
The benefits to stores that use the EyeSee are impressive. One store, after using the mannequins, discovered that a lot of their Asian customers were in the store between 3pm and 6pm, and mostly through a particular door. They realised that a tour bus was dropping people off outside that entrance at that time, so they placed Chinese-speaking staff at that entrance during those hours and sales increased 12 per cent in value.
Following the EyeSee came the less creepy, but equally impressive Smart Mannequins from Almax.
This mannequin uses Bluetooth to buzz customers with details about products they’re looking at, including size and colour options, styling suggestions and where to find the product. Users need to have the Almax app downloaded, then, when they approach these Bluetooth-enabled store dummies, they start getting notifications.
This could go one of two ways. It could be a really useful upgrade to the shopping experience, making everything more streamlined and efficient, or it could be like having a really pushy sales assistant in your pocket.
Either way, we’re just going to stay a little wary of smart dummies.