Camera sums up your life for marketers

NEC's FieldAnalyst camera can do a quick read of your face to determine your age and gender.

Here's something for you privacy advocates: a security camera that determines your age, gender and, possibly one day, your social class.

It's called FieldAnalyst and it's from NEC. The system homes in on faces of people who pass by the video camera. It then rapidly compares the image against samples in a database. It then spits out what it believes is your approximate age is and your gender.

Are you being typecast? The FieldAnalyst camera has pegged the age of the guy in the square at 30 to 39. Michael Kanellos/CNET News.com

NEC scientists may next try to add clothing as a characteristic and classify people by whether they wear a suit or a T-shirt.

FieldAnalyst isn't looking for criminals or Osama Bin Laden lookalikes . Instead, the data is intended to help mall owners better understand their visitors. How come no one is going to a certain store? What time of day do most of the 40- to 50-year-old women visit the place? Did the recent promotion reach the desired demographic?

NEC started selling it in Japan a few weeks ago and already a few malls have installed it.

It's not pinpoint accurate, but it is fast. It said I was 50, for instance, twice. (In reality, it's 46 3/4.) But it came up with that answer in a few seconds. It works better with Japanese people as the vast majority of the samples in the database are Japanese.

It also hones down your age only to within 10 years. However, NEC wants to narrow the range, possibly even getting to the point where it can determine age within a year or two.

NEC points out that the FieldAnalyst, which costs $19,000 (2 million yen), does not store data or record the images, so your privacy is preserved. And yet the store is still sizing you up. In some parts of America, customers would be tempted to burn down a mall that had installed it.

 

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