It sounds like a scene from the 1980s movie "Mannequin": The pristine face and absent eyes of the life-size model doll hiding some inner life, following people with its gaze.

But according to businessweek.com, this scene is quite the reality, thanks to Italian mannequin maker Almax SpA. Its EyeSee smart mannequins have built-in facial recognition technology that is being used by high-end retailers to track and obtain shopper data.

"It's spooky," said Luca Solca, head of luxury goods research at Exane BNP Paribas in London, in the article. "You wouldn’t expect a mannequin to be observing you."

The EyeSee looks like an ordinary mannequin on the outside, with its slender polystyrene frame, blank face and improbable pose. Inside, however, a camera embedded in one eye feeds data into facial-recognition software that logs the age, gender, and race of passers-by, the article reported.

The mannequin went on sale last December and is now being used in three European countries and the U.S. It has even led one outlet to adjust its window displays after revealing that men who shopped in the first two days of a sale spent more than women, according to Almax. EyeSee may soon get ears as well as eyes, as Almax is testing technology that recognizes words to allow retailers to eavesdrop on what shoppers say about the mannequin’s attire, the article reported.

While some retailers are cautious about over-stepping privacy boundaries, others in the industry are enthusiastic about its potential.

"Any software that can help profile people while keeping their identities anonymous is fantastic," said Uché Okonkwo, executive director of consultant Luxe Corp. It "could really enhance the shopping experience, the product assortment, and help brands better understand their customers."

Read more about retail technology.

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