Facial recognition technology is steadily creeping into mainstream use. Photo-sharing sites, including Facebook, use it to help you tag friends in photos. Digital billboards use it to decide whether to show you an ad for a manly beer or a feminine product. And soon bars will be using it to tell you whether they're home to a sausage fest or melon mania.
A start-up called SceneTap is rolling out a new service next month for bars and the patrons who love them: facial detection cameras that will keep track of the number of people in a bar, including a running tally of ladies and gents. Smartphone users will be able to download an app to "tap the bar scene" before deciding where to go, so they can steer clear of (or find) the crowds (of the gender they prefer). Two hundred bars across the country have signed on, with over 50 bars in SceneTap's home base of Chicago agreeing to be tapped.
Cameras are set up at the bar's exits and entrances, says SceneTap CEO Cole Harper. The facial recognition software, built on baseline code from Intel, is not savvy enough to, say, be linked up with Facebook and detect identity; it's just able to detect a face and its gender. The company is wary of privacy issues around the cameras; it stresses that the cameras won't know who you are or keep track of how many beers you drink...
Harper, 27, and his co-founder came up with the idea while "bar-hopping, spending a lot of money on cabs, getting somewhere and not having it be a good time" in Chicago. Initially, angel-investor-backed SceneTap "practically gave away" the cameras -- priced from $800 to $2000 (for the outdoor variety) -- but soon bars wanted to pay to be part of the summer launch. Casey Moran's, Rockwood Place, Hub51 and Public House are among the bars that have signed on in Chicago. The app is free; the company plans to make the bulk of its money via advertising and Groupon-like coupons.
"This is going to change the way the bar industry runs," says Harper. Indeed, it will make choosing where to go for the night easier for smartphone-savvy bar hoppers.
While SceneTap's facial recognition technology can tell you the gender ratio, it unfortunately doesn't rate attractiveness. Maybe the company can one day link up with beauty-analysis site AnaFace to not only tell you the ratio of males to females, but the ratio of hottie to notties.
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