Canon China has introduced a creepy technology for “brightening up workspace.” The company’s offices are equipped with AI-powered cameras with face and smile recognition. But they don’t only recognize the person behind a lovely smile – they reportedly only let them access the offices if they’re smiling.
Canon Information Technology in China announced the Smart Workspace Solution last year. The company writes that it’s intended for “keeping up with the demands of the new normal.” So yeah, it can measure your body temperature to make sure it’s not increased. But other aspects of the technology don’t seem to have much in common with the pandemic safety requirements. And definitely, the most concerning one is all about “smiley face access control and attendance.”
Roughly Google-translated from Chinese, here’s what it is about:
“Based on the corporate culture of “moving and always being”, Canon has always advocated the concepts of “laughing” and “good health”, and hopes to bring happiness and health to everyone in the post-epidemic era. Therefore, in the “Jia Chuang Space” intelligent IT solution, a new experience of smile recognition is specially incorporated. It is hoped that smiles can let everyone relax and get healthy, so as to create a more pleasant working atmosphere and improve efficiency.”
In other words, the Smart Workspace Solution only lets smiling employees enter the offices and attend meetings. And they better keep that smile throughout the meeting, because they’re still being monitored. According to The Financial Times, Chinese companies use AI and algorithms to monitor their employees to an unsettling degree. They keep an eye on the programs they use on their computers because god forbid they use any program that will reduce their productivity. Companies measure the duration of the employees’ lunch breaks, and reportedly even track their movement outside the office with apps on their phones. There’s no escape.
By the way, that doesn’t only happen in China. The Verge gives an example of Amazon, which also uses AI technology to monitor the employees. Stuff like this happens in Serbia as well. We’re not that sophisticated, but people sure are monitored and surveilled in many companies, with the last drop of productivity squeezed out of them on a daily basis.
Because of all this, being able to enter the offices only if you’re smiling leaves a bad taste in my mouth. You’re entering a machine that grinds you every day, and it now even forces you to look happy about it. It reminds me of that meme with a smiling mask, and it’s pretty much how people feel when they’re forced to smile. I wonder how effective this technology really is in “brightening up the workspace,” but I wouldn’t rely on it too much. Perhaps treating employees like humans which they are would make them smile more genuinely and actually brighten up the workspace. But maybe I’m just too naïve and optimistic for this world.
[via The Verge]