Chinese Offices are using AI Cameras that Only Let Smiling Workers Enter

Research from Comparitech has indicated that there are more than 770 million cameras in use around the world, and 54 per cent of those cameras operate in China.

The report states that eight out of 10 of the most-watched cities in the world are in China, and places like Taiyuan, allegedly have a whopping 117 cameras per 1,000 people. Cities like Chongqing, Shenzhen and Shanghai, even made it into the list of the most-watched cities, in the world.


(Image source GIPHY. Image Shows a short clip of a man in a red hoodie fake smiling)

Fake a Smile

In the Canon headquarters based in China, the technology giant has installed artificial intelligence-enabled smile recognition technology into its cameras.

The products are widely used in the Chinese workforce, and the camera has a unique function that has been programmed to identify employees with smiling faces. Once a ‘happy’ face has been identified the employee will be allowed to enter the building.

Canon has claimed that the new technology will be a good indication of progress for employees. And the technology will determine whether staff are feeling content and happy when they are at work.

However, the new workplace management tool, which was first introduced in 2020, has received attention from workforces around the world. Especially the fact that employees are required to ‘fake a smile' to enter their workplace. The future implementation of AI cameras with smile recognition technology is undetermined in most countries.


(Image Source: GIPHY. The image shows a clip from The Simpsons. Homer Simpson says: 'you'll notice that I am now a model worker' whilst eating doughnuts over his desk.)

Canon China believes the new technology will encourage morale and create a healthy working environment. A spokesperson from Canon said:

“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.”

Alongside the positive feedback, the new technology has been widely criticized too. Critics have said the technology could be more of a privacy violation than a beneficial tool.

The surveillance culture in China has always gained mixed reviews from the public.

Many people have used social media to share their concerns about the new technology. An employee posted on Weibo (China’s version of Twitter), “So now the companies are not only manipulating our time but also our emotions.”

Chen Wei who works at Taigusys, which is a company that specialises in developing emotion recognition technology has said:

“Ordinary people here in China aren’t happy about this technology, but they have no choice. If the police say there have to be cameras in a community, people will just have to live with it. There’s always that demand and we’re here to fulfil it.”

On the other hand, China’s unique approach to surveillance systems has given companies like Canon the opportunity to create and launch innovative products that might be less palatable in other places in the world.

Do you think this technology will catch on?

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