Canon has reportedly installed “smile recognition” technology in the offices of its Chinese subsidiary, with employees only permitted to enter rooms or book meetings if they are smiling.
The AI-backed technology was first reported by The Financial Times, on the subject of how Chinese corporations are tracking employees with the help of cutting-edge technology.
As The Verge noted, “Firms are monitoring which programs employees use on their computers to gauge their productivity; using CCTV cameras to measure how long they take on their lunch break; and even tracking their movements outside the office using mobile apps.”
“Workers are not being replaced by algorithms and artificial intelligence. Instead, the management is being sort of augmented by these technologies,” King’s College London academic Nick Srnicek told The Financial Times. “Technologies are increasing the pace for people who work with machines instead of the other way around, just like what happened during the industrial revolution in the 18th century.”
Canon first announced its “Smiley Face” intelligent ecosystem in October 2020.
“‘Jiatron Space’ is an intelligent IT solution independently developed by Canon Innovation Technology (Beijing) Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of Canon (China). The solution includes 5 optional functional modules, namely, smiling face access control and attendance, smiling face temperature measurement, smiling face meeting room appointment management, smiling face visitor registration, smiling face printing, and constructs a highly customized intelligent space management system, which is suitable for all types Large-scale enterprises, government affairs halls, hospitals, schools, banks and other institutions, as well as commercial service places such as restaurants,” the translated post reads. “In addition, based on the corporate culture of ‘moving and always being,’ Canon has always advocated the concepts of ‘laughing’ and ‘big 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, thereby creating a more pleasant working atmosphere and improving efficiency,” the post added.
According to The Financial Times, a spokesperson for Canon China argued that the controversial software was simply intended to be used to create a positive working atmosphere.
“We have been wanting to encourage employees to create a positive atmosphere by utilizing this system with the smile detection setting ‘on,’” the spokesperson 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.”
The progress made by China in the world of artificial intelligence has caused heightened concern in the United States. In late May, the president of Microsoft claimed that George Orwell’s 1984 “could come to pass in 2024” if legislators fail to build protective systems against artificial intelligence and that the government would find it “difficult to catch up” as the level of technology accelerates.
It has also been reported that “the Chinese Communist government has been testing an artificial intelligence (AI) emotion-detection camera system on Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.”