No dummy: This mannequin is spying on you

Several dozen EyeSee mannequins are already watching shoppers and gathering data with their camera eyes.

Tim Hornyak
Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.
Tim Hornyak
2 min read
The EyeSees have it: Almax's spy mannequin watches shoppers in Europe and the U.S. Almax

When you're maxing your credit card on Black Friday, creepy store mannequins might actually be eying you.

Retailers are deploying mannequins equipped with cameras that watch for shoplifters and record shopper behavior to improve sales.

The EyeSee mannequin from Italy's Almax SpA is being used with facial-recognition software that can identify the age, race, and gender of shoppers and record how long they spend around a display. Almax says the technology doesn't violate shoppers' privacy.

Following their launch last year, several dozen of the dummies are now being used in shops in Europe and the U.S. and dozens more are on order, according to Bloomberg.

The $5,130 EyeSee has a shock-proof polystyrene exterior, but the camera in one eye gathers footage for facial-recognition software that's similar to what law enforcement uses. Unlike ceiling cameras, it's at eye level and provides a better picture of who's in the shop.

Several retailers have changed their offerings or staff after the dummy-cams revealed unexpected demographics at certain times.

For instance, one store deployed Chinese-speaking staff when it learned of greater-than-expected numbers of Asian shoppers.

Almax, which collaborated with computer vision firm Kee Square on the cameras, won't reveal which retailers are trying the spy mannequins. Meanwhile, it's trying to improve the dummies by adding microphones to them so they can recognize customers' comments about merchandise on display.

Check out this promo vid on EyeSee. Would you want to know if store mannequins are watching you, or would you just ignore them as another form of security camera?