The futuristic idea of shops knowing your age, gender and race when you walk into a store and targeting products accordingly is becoming a reality. Real Life Analytics, a MassChallenge startup based out of Boston, have developed computer vision software which can determine your demographic profile within 20 milliseconds of you walking into a store.
This idea has left a sour taste in the mouth of some consumers. A similar venture, SceneTap, which aimed to use computer vision to tell you the age and gender breakdown of patrons at a bar you were considering visiting, found themselves having to write an open letter to defend their technology, in which they stressed nobody’s privacy was being infringed.
This is something Robert DeFilippi, Real Life Analytics’ co-founder, was also keen to highlight. “We don’t take photos, so we don’t know who they are. … We detect all these features without anything to go on,” he told BostonInno. All processing is done in-memory, and stores receive an anonymised breakdown of demographics at the end of the day, without photographs. “It’s not quite facial recognition but facial detection,” DeFilippi remarked.
Giving stores a breakdown of who’s walking through their doors each day is phase one of Real Life Analytics’ master plan. The plan is to sell the service to retailers on a monthly subscription basis, with stores in the Boston area having already confirmed subscriptions. Phase two is real-time targeted advertising, where stores can pick which adverts to display based on the particular characteristics of the shopper walking past.
However, those plans are a little way off- the startup is currently bootstrapping with $10,000 to their name. They hope to raise a seed round in the autumn, to make their dreams of the ultimately personalised shopping experience a reality.