Bionic mannequins are watching you


Fashion brands are deploying £3,000 mannequins equipped with facial recognition technology  to watch over shoppers in their stores. Retailers are introducing the EyeSee, sold by Italian mannequin maker Almax, to glean data on customers much as online merchants are able to do.

The EyeSee looks like a regular mannequin on the outside, but inside it is a camera embedded in one eye feeding data into facial-recognition software to recognise age, gender and race.  “Any software that can help profile people while keeping their identities anonymous is fantastic,” said Uché Okonkwo, executive director of consultant Luxe Corp. 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, the EyeSee provides better data because it stands at eye level and invites customer attention, Almax contends. The mannequin, which went on sale in December and is now being used in three European countries and the U.S., has led one outlet to adjust its window displays after revealing that men who shopped in the first two days of a sale spent more than women, according to Almax.

“The retail community is starting to get wise to the opportunity around personalization,” said Lorna Hall, retail editor at fashion forecaster WGSN. “The golden ticket is getting to the point where they’ve got my details, they know what I bought last time I came in.”

To give the EyeSee ears as well as eyes, Almax is testing technology that recognizes words to allow retailers to eavesdrop on what shoppers say about the mannequin’s attire. Catanese says the company also plans to add screens next to the dummies to prompt customers about products relevant to their profile, much like cookies and pop-up ads on a website.

A promotional prompt or a reminder about where to find women’s shoes “could become a digital version of a very pushy sales assistant,” she said. “And we all know how we feel about those.”


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