Smart Grocery Shelves Can Tell How You Feel About Food

By Mike Pomranz |

© Dan Dalton / Getty Images

In the not-too-distant future, grocery store shelves may spend as much time analyzing you as you spend analyzing which fish sticks to buy. Better start kissing up to those frozen dinners now before they start talking trash about you.

Reporting from this year’s National Retail Federation’s Big Show, Consumerist noted one slightly creepy emerging trend: digital displays with cameras, allowing for tailored experiences based on who’s checking out certain items, that report back to the store about what kind of reactions potential customers had.

In one example, a freezer case stocked with Bagel Bites and Smart Ones frozen meals not only tracked how much traffic walked by, but also how many times the freezer door was opened, shoppers’ gender and even what expression people had while staring down the boxes of Bites. On the back end, all this info gets tallied into an easily understandable graphic display.

In another example, Heinz used the technology in ketchup and mustard displays to detect age and gender, and then used that inside info to push different promotions in real time.

By now, thanks to the Internet, we’ve become used to advertisements following us based on where we’ve been poking around online. But are we prepared for similar technology in brick-and-mortar stores? Personally, I don’t need a talking shelf telling me, “Hello, Michael. Can I once again interest you in three bags of Nacho Cheese Doritos?” I made a few bad decisions that day, all right, shelf? Let me be!

That said, if a shelf wants to cut me a deal on some ketchup, I could be convinced. I’m a frowning 36-year-old man; I deserve a better deal on ketchup!

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