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New Canon AI cameras only allow smiling employees in office

Canon China has installed cameras with AI-enabled smile recognition technology in its offices to ensure that employees are one-hundred percent happy and not dealing with some stress. But the new tech invades employees' privacy and here is how.

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Story highlights
  • Canon China installed cameras with AI-enabled smile recognition technology in offices.
  • Cameras will determine that employees are one-hundred percent happy and not dealing with some stress.
  • However, the new technology feels like a privacy invasion rather than something useful.

Canon is known to experiment quite a lot with its imaging products. The camera brand is, anyway, popular for getting so many patents registered in its name for future tech. This time, the company has put its old product to a new use. According to the latest report, Canon is using its cameras to detect if its employees are doing well at the workplace. But how?

Canon has installed cameras with AI-enabled smile recognition technology in its China offices. The cameras with this special feature identify employees with a smiling face and then only allow them inside the office. This has been done to ensure that employees are one-hundred percent happy and are not dealing with some stress. But this cannot be the sole reason.

Everyone is aware of China's surveillance system. The country is superactive in terms of noting the moves and actions of its residents. The plight begins when Chinese companies decide to monitor employees to an unnerving degree using AI and algorithms. This has been reported by The Financial Times.

Furthermore, companies will keep an eye on which programs employees are using on their computers via CCTV cameras. The time taken during the lunch break and tracking movements of the employees outside the office will also be monitored using mobile applications.

As per some other report, one employee wrote on Weibo (Chinese platform equivalent to Twitter), "So now the companies are not only manipulating our time, but also our emotions."

"Workers are not being replaced by algorithms and artificial intelligence. Instead, the management is being sort of augmented by these technologies," King's College London academic Nick Srnicek told The Financial Times. "Technologies are increasing the pace for people who work with machines instead of the other way around, just like what happened during the industrial revolution in the 18th century."

The new smile recognition technology was announced in 2020 as a workplace management tool. This technology didn't get much attention for obvious reasons, like how it forces people to fake a smile just to get access to their work organisation.

The acceptability of such AI cameras packed with smile recognition tech in global markets is still a question. Hence, China became an easy target for Canon Information Technology to do such kinds of testing.

Meanwhile, Canon China is defending the tech and says that it has been designed only to promote a positive atmosphere. "We have been wanting to encourage employees to create a positive atmosphere by utilizing this system with the smile detection setting ON," a Canon spokesperson told Nikkei Asia. "Mostly, people are just too shy to smile, but once they get used to smiles in the office, they just keep their smiles without the system which created a positive and lively atmosphere."

However, the new tech feels like a privacy invasion rather than something useful. So it will be interesting to see how Canon will try and sell this tech in the international markets.