Microsoft hints at 'Minority Report'-style customer recognition for retailers

Microsoft hints at 'Minority Report'-style customer recognition for retailers

By Jason Abbruzzese 5 hours ago

Imagine a store that knows about the outfit you just bought, and can tell you exactly which shoes will go with it.

Microsoft has teased the ability for retailers to employ its Kinect technology to identify customers through facial recognition, bringing the world one step closer to the weirdly prescient future displayed in the 2002 film Minority Report, which was based on a 1956 short story by Philip K. Dick. The introduction of such personalized retail has been viewed not only as a way to provide better service, but also as a dangerous entry into the personal lives of shoppers.

Business Insider first noticed the nugget, which was included in a blog post from Microsoft entitled "2015: The Year of On-demand, Personalized Shopping."

Providing retailers with a way to quickly identify customers in order tailor shopping experiences to their tendencies is seen as the next step in creating better experience. 

It is also a way to lure consumers back into brick-and-mortar stores and away from online shopping, with its competitive and transparent pricing.

Minority Report already has a reputation for its surprisingly accurate depictions of future technology, such as gesture control of computers, as well as some of the ways these things will be incorporated into society for good and bad.

In the movie, the character played by Tom Cruise walks into a Gap store where he is recognized via retinal scan as "Mr. Yakamoto" and asked how the assorted tank tops he bought during his last visit "worked out." Cruise's character had just gotten an eye transplant (another fantasy technology that may soon be a reality) so as not to be recognized by the various scanners around the city.

Consumer data collection is a massive business, with troves of information collected by customers every day from purchases but also through various other data collection agencies. This data is then used to inform a variety of business decisions for retailers, including what to buy and what to put on sale.

There has been some pushback about the use of data. In May 2014, the Federal Trade Commission called on Congress to take action against data brokers that sell consumer information. President Barack Obama is currently in the midst of proposing numerous pieces of legislation that would put checks on the collection and use of consumer data.

Among the other technologies Microsoft discussed in the blog post, TGI Friday's serves will be equipped with 8-inch tablets that will process orders and manage waitlists.


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