Canon Information Technology

Today In Corporate Dystopia: AI Camera Only Lets Smiling Employees Into Office

Work isn't all fun and games. It's pretty unlikely that we're going to be happy or in a smiling mood 100% while working. And that's perfectly normal; it would honestly be kind of weird if we all loved to work.

But what if your workplace decides to force smiles? As much as that sounds like a dystopian novel come to life, it's a reality that employees in China are facing right now.

Canon Beijing is using AI cameras...

Unsplash | ShareGrid

As Business Insider reports, the Chinese subsidiary of the Japanese tech company, Canon Information Technologies, has decided that its employees need to smile more, and with the use of AI cameras installed in its offices, it intends to "encourage" that kind of positivity.

Workers need to smile to get *into* the building.

Using what they call "smiling face recognition," employees will need to force a grin every time they want to enter the office building. It extends to other services or uses as well, such as booking a conference room.

The technology is meant to encourage overall positivity in the workplace.

A spokesperson for Canon China told Nikkei, "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."

Still, that sounds a little suspicious.

Something like this is common in China.

Unsplash | Matthew Henry

This kind of move is, frankly, a little unsurprising. China already goes to some lengths to keep track of its workforce.

The Verge reports that with the use of AI and algorithms, employers monitor the kinds of websites workers access on company time, measure how long their lunch breaks are, and even track where they go when they're outside of the office.

But the West isn't so innocent either.

Unsplash | Bryan Angelo

You might think, "well, that's bad, but at least it doesn't happen here." It does. Amazon is one such company that uses a Big Brother approach on its warehouse workers.

The company can track productivity among its workers. It even employed a "Relations Heatmap" in order to track its Whole Foods workers to see if they were likely to form a union, according to Business Insider.

It happens both onsite and at home.

Unsplash | Sigmund

With so many people moving to home offices over the course of the pandemic, employers have been tapping into ways to track productivity remotely. Microsoft Office 365 is one of the many applications that can track activity, the Verge states.

It's a pretty grim look at what's to come for all of us.

When you really think about it, Canon's "smile" technology isn't really that far of a stretch in terms of workplace productivity tracking.

This specific feature may not be coming to an office near you, but you can expect to see your employer implement new ways to monitor you while you're on office time.

And it may not even be that helpful.

The feature can be disabled, but Canon hopes that it's used in order to "make everyone relax and get healthy with a smile, so as to create a happier working atmosphere and improve efficiency."

Maybe I'm wrong, but forcing people to smile doesn't seem like the most effective way to make your employees happier. It seems more like a Band-Aid solution than anything else.

h/t: Business Insider, The Verge.

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