Pizzeria sign caught tracking customers via a camera, facial recognition

sign caught tracking users with camera 35241222  shop sale motion blurred pedestrians
Connel Design / 123RF
Sure, the web makes it easy for businesses to track your spending and surfing habits, but those physical billboards you see shopping offline could be tracking you, too. When an electronic sign at a Peppe’s Pizza in Norway crashed earlier this month, it showed customers computer output code that suggested the sign was tracking their responses using camera and facial recognition technology.

The crashed sign temporarily showed the program’s output, or what the program was measuring, which was photographed by a patron and uploaded to a web forum. That output code showed that the sign’s built-in camera was watching anyone who stopped to give the sign a glance. Using facial recognition technology, the sign appears to track gender, age, if the viewer wore glasses and even if that person was smiling, tagged along with just how long the sign maintained that person’s attention.

That data is likely used for the advertiser to improve the sign based on real-world data. The system could theoretically be tracking which messages and images tend to attract men or women and of what age. Tagging whether or not the passerby smiles indicates the program tracks emotional responses. That data is likely used to improve future ads on that sign. If visitors with glasses spend more time at the sign than other users, perhaps a font size change could enhance the adverts readability, for example.

The sign was reportedly developed by facial recognition technology company Kairos. The company says the billboard helps businesses identify who their customers are and whether or not displays are reaching the target audience.

For businesses, identifying whether or not their marketing is reaching their intended audience can help companies reach the right people quickly. The idea is similar to tracking users online so advertisers can send diaper ads to users surfing parenting sites or travel deals to users who recently Googled a particular destination. The physical sign doesn’t appear to be tracking potential customers by name — or even by an assigned number like some online tracking systems — but instead seems designed to measure the effectiveness of an in-person advertisement.

Product Review

Canon democratizes full-frame with the EOS RP, but keep your expectations low

At just $1,300, the RP is Canon's least expensive full-frame camera yet, but it was born into a world of high-end, high-cost lenses where it doesn't yet feel at home.

Don't use streaming apps? Try the best free media players for your local music

Rather than using music-streaming apps, you may want something for playing your local music. Good news! There are some good alternatives. These are the best media players you can download for free on Windows.

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.

Take to the virtual skies with these free flight simulators

You don't have to spend the entirety of your paycheck to become a virtual ace, at least when it comes to flight simulation. Our list of the best free flight simulators will let you unleash your inner Maverick.
Home Theater

Cutting the cord? Let us help you find the best service for live TV streaming

There's a long list of live TV streaming services available to help you cut the cord and replace your traditional TV subscription. Each is different in important ways, and this guide will help you find the best one for you.

Nikon will bring eye-detection autofocus to the Z6 and Z7 in May

An upcoming firmware update will bring Eye AF to the Nikon Z6 and Z7 -- along with improved autofocus performance in low light. The update will also give the cameras support for the CFexpress format.

OnePlus 6T vs. Honor View 20: We compare the cameras in these ‘flagship killers’

For less than $600, you can buy either the OnePlus 6T or the Honor View 20, two extremely capable smartphones with plenty of exciting features. But which one has the best camera? We found out on a recent trip to France.

Fujifilm’s X-T30 is a semi-pro, feature-rich camera that’s affordable to boot

Fujifilm's newest mirrorless camera delivers the premium features of the X-T3 without the premium price, giving aspiring enthusiasts a lower-cost option that can still match the image quality of Fuji's flagship.

Fujifilm XP140 squeezes more durability, low-light ability into a waterproof cam

Fujifilm's waterproof compact can now head even further underwater. The Fujifilm XP140 features several upgrades, including a more durable body, a wider ISO range for low light, and expanded auto modes.

From f/1.2 primes to the mysterious DS, here are Canon’s upcoming RF lenses

Canon's EOS R mirrorless series will gain six new lenses this year. Canon just shared a list of six lenses under development, including four zooms and two prime lenses. One has a mysterious new feature called Defocus Smoothing.

From DSLRs to mirrorless, these are the best cameras you can buy right now

From entry-level models to full-frame flagships, many cameras take great photos and video. The best digital cameras, however, push the industry forward with innovative sensors and improved usability, among other things. Here are our…

Photography news: Wacom’s slimmer pen, Leica’s cinema special edition

In this week's photography news, Wacom launches a new slimmer pen for pro users. Leica's upcoming M10-P is designed for cinema, inside and out, with built-in cinema modes in the updated software.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Be careful who you bokeh, jokes Apple’s latest iPhone ad

With iPhone sales under pressure, you'd think there wouldn't be much to laugh about at Apple HQ. But the company has seen fit to inject some humor into its latest handset ad, which highlights the camera's Depth Control feature.