Coyne Tibbets January 12, 2018 7:02 AM

I was interested to read about the Walmart “unhappy customer” initiative. My first thought was it maybe now they’ll “get it” that having every line 12 customers long because there’s no cashiers is detrimental. But I’m not holding my breath.

Wael January 12, 2018 8:57 AM


Thanks! I wonder how these Chinese cameras would fare when they capture a foreigner’s face. I mean… they all look alike 🙂

Petre Peter January 12, 2018 10:02 AM

Not sure if the step toward a cashless society it’s in the same direction as that for social credit. As Susan Landau mentioned in Listening In, the trade off here seems to be less privacy for ‘consumer’ customers while providers make a a small cut from every transaction. Not necessarily bad in the presence of proof of transaction security.

Wael January 12, 2018 10:27 AM

@Peter A,

And some countries have already passed laws prohibiting covering your face in public…

In some cultures, it’s men that are veiled. Yet in some other alien cultures, women aren’t expected to be dressed — it’s disrespectable 🙂

echo January 12, 2018 10:39 AM

Oh gosh. I’m sure sociologists and economists will have fun with this. I can’t add anything but expect this won’t necessarily replace people but displace people to other tasks.

My bank has upped the number of machines and reduced counter staff but increased presence of staff in reception and created more open frosted glass meeting rooms. I’m also stickign with my energy supplier because although they are not the cheapest they don’t skimp on customer service and send out the bailiffs when you are one millisecond late with paying.

Rock January 12, 2018 11:28 AM

Part of the reason I still go to retail was to avoid tracking that is so heavily encouraged and questionably monetized online.

If I discover my local outlets joined in, they’ll lose a customer.

VIP1130 January 12, 2018 12:35 PM

“…VIP databases to identify who should receive special treatment.”

Welcome to Slippery Slopeland, enjoy your stay with us.

Ninja January 12, 2018 12:44 PM

Am I the only one who finds the trend creepy and obnoxious? Unhappy customers my ass, you can’t even have a bad day alone without some moron AI analyzing your behavior trying to extract something from it. Jesus. Brave new world indeed.

Also, it will be amusing when people get their faces hacked and used to make purchases. At least you can go plastic surgery and change your face. No?

CallMeLateForSupper January 12, 2018 12:54 PM

“FBI’s facial recognition [software] incorrectly identified black people more often than white people.”

In the early 1970’s I worked on a contract let by General Mills for a paint-by-numbers system. For around thirty dollars, a customer’s submitted photo would be scanned by the system, analyzed for colors, and a paper “canvas” would be printed and slapped in a box along with suitable paint pots. One of the early test portraits became infamous and was duly enshrined in the office of the project leader. The professional photographic portrait of a very black male had been rendered as a smudge in the painted portrait because our system had assigned the same value of black to every feature of the man’s face (except teeth and eyes).

CallMeLateForSupper January 12, 2018 1:05 PM

“…VIP databases to identify who should receive special treatment.”

Now, that is chilling!

“Sonderbehandlung is a German noun meaning SPECIAL TREATMENT in English. While it can refer to any sort of preferential treatment, it is known primarily as a EUPHEMISM FOR MASS MURDER used by Nazi functionaries and the SS, who commonly used the abbreviation S.B. in documentation.”

echo January 12, 2018 1:11 PM


It seems automated face and emotion a recognising technology has its opposite number too in helping teach autistic people emtional responses within the work environment and help this cohort currently suffering from 80% unemployment (in the US and UK) back into work.

Adults with autism often find it difficult to read subtle emotional cues that other people may take for granted, and teaching them how to recognize those signals can be a challenge. Researchers at Scotland’s Heriot-Watt University say they’ve invented a solution: Alyx, a robotic emotion teacher.

albert January 12, 2018 3:45 PM

All the more ironic, considering how the brick & mortars are falling like flies, and pissing and moaning about how bad business is.

What’s the alternative? Stop shopping at B & Ms? Good luck with that online ordering.

Along with planned obsolescence*, the elimination of cash, draconian surveillance*, and street-justice policing policies, what else can we look forward to?r

Re: Alyx,
From the article: “…“It’s the workplace politics, especially being able to understand what people really mean, rather than simply what they say. And part of that is understanding emotional expression.”…” “Knowing whether or not they’re doing a good job.”… Seriously? Does anyone see the stupidity of this?r

Interesting. Maybe we could use Ai to eliminate the assholes who practice office politics, and evaluate employee performance by Ai as well. I’ll take an office full of autistics any day.

Did I mention that this is more academic BS?r

Can we find meaningful employment for these ‘researchers’, instead of encouraging them in their pursuits?r

Nothing personal, @Echo. Thanks for the link.

. .. . .. — ….

Alyer Babtu January 12, 2018 6:24 PM

Ideal ! Add embroidered silk waistcoats, and we will be back in the 17th century, where security is a lot simpler.

Jacques January 13, 2018 2:39 PM

Don’t forget privacy issues:

Well, I see only one privacy issue here:
this is my face and I refuse to have it photographed, scanned, stored and recognized by any automated system. Period.

Ramiro January 13, 2018 3:48 PM

I was interested to read about the Walmart “unhappy customer” initiative. My first thought was it maybe now they’ll “get it” that having every line 12 customers long because there’s no cashiers is detrimental. But I’m not holding my breath.

When that happens at my local Walmart, they send out another employee… to
ask people in those lines whether they’d be interested in trying the self-checkouts (hey, maybe go open one of those 10 unused lines if you have no real work to do…). Of course, one loses some anonymity by using those (no cash accepted), which is why I don’t do it… but facial recognition will “fix” that.

Clipper January 14, 2018 7:32 PM

I have noticed that more and more retail chains use these facial recognition systems and I just avoid those stores. They are very persistent in giving them your full details just to purchase some computer gadget which I find extremely annoying. And frankly usually these retailers are lacking in good prices and good service and range of products and they think they will compensate with infringing upon their customers’ privacy.

TRX January 19, 2018 11:10 AM

A local chain restaurant has been using facial recognition for several years now.

I usually visit them with a friend, once every month or so. Their usual waitress turnover is two to three months, so even if we get the same waitress every time, we don’t see her every time.

I order my meal with various substitutions and deletions due to food allergies. I always pay cash, so they don’t have my name… but several times I’ve started to place my order, and the waitress would rattle off the rest of it and ask, “same again?”

Okay, they have a surveillance system; it’s hard to get business insurance without one any more. Some off-the-shelf facial recognition software could give them, let’s say a 75% chance of identifying the same face more than once. Your POS system already knows what table that face sat at before, what it ordered, who its servers were, and probably how much it tipped. If they paid by credit card, they know as much about them as they care to know. Any decent coder could whip a proof-of-concept system out using freeware and scripts in a couple-three weeks.

Most people are susceptible to having their egos stroked. When the server remembers theirname and order months later, they’re more likely to leave a larger tip, mention their excellent service to other potential customers, and come back more frequently.

The trick with all this is that to make it profitable, you don’t need 99.99% accuracy; the cost of a miss is negligible, so each hit is a win.

Darth E. Vader April 14, 2018 1:18 AM

re: the “cyber curtain”

“One ring to rule them all,
one ring to find them;
one ring to bring them all
and in the darkness bind them.”

search: Ring of Steel, London
Ring of Steel, Manhattan, NY
Ring of steel, Global

About 20 years ago facial recognition worked well enough to identify my friend at a DMV in TX before he had given them his name, but they tried to make it look like the software had so far to go and didn’t really work, you know, or so the ACLU told us, but, face the facts, the feds didn’t spend billions upon billions of dollars investing in this technology over the course of several decades if they didn’t think it was going to work.


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