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Smile: You're on camera for Tokyo station ads

Twenty-seven digital advertising displays, equipped with cameras that can distinguish the gender and approximate age of people who look at the displays, were set up Monday in 20 major subway and JR stations in the metropolitan area.

The displays are part of a one-year trial being conducted by the Digital Signage Promotion Project, comprising 11 railway companies and their affiliated advertising firms. Their aim is to learn what kinds of people are interested in which ads at what times.

A camera installed in the upper part of a display counts the number of people who pass in front of it, and identifies the faces of those who watch the ads. The facial recognition system gathers data on viewers' gender and age based on such factors as their bone structure and hair.

Project officials said they would not store the images taken by the cameras, but the project will likely cause debate regarding privacy issues.

Two 52-inch digital displays have been set up within JR Shinjuku Station. A nearby plate seven centimeters high and 14 centimeters wide reads, "Advertising survey under way; images being recorded to determine gender and age groups."

"I didn't notice the camera. I hope it won't identify individuals," a 38-year-old homemaker from Ageo, Saitama Prefecture, said.

(Jun. 22, 2010)
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