Amscreen’s Minority Report Reference Sparks UK Shit-Storm

November 4, 2013 by Dave Haynes


Any media coverage having to do with face pattern detection and advertising – like what Quividi does – seems to invariably prompt tired old references to the 2002 film Minority Report.

Never mind that the technology is nothing like that. It’s in the same popular culture hemisphere, so use it. Fine. Got it. Used to it. Whatever. Then when these stories run in gadget blogs and in the general media, they provoke all kinds of indignation over privacy invasion. Again, that’s the well-worn pattern.

So all I can do is shake my head and wonder what went through the head of Amscreen CEO Simon Sugar when he did an interview recently about a face pattern detection thing called OptimEyes going into Tesco petrol stations. “Yes, it’s like something out of Minority Report, but this could could change the face of British retail, and our plans are to expand the screens into as many supermarkets as possible.”

Oh, Lord.

Look up the Amscreen hash tag on Twitter and see how delighted the British public are with what they now think is an invasion of their privacy.

Sugar is now tweeting away to clarify.

As Sugar notes, it’s not facial recognition. It’s facial pattern detection. ALL this tech does is look for and count what it understands to be faces, based on geometry. It can take a crack at also estimating gender and age range, and present data that could allow an ad to be served based on the idea that a young male is looking at that moment.

It might have just been an “Oops, I shouldn’t have said that,” but Jeez. I suppose you could also argue even this kind of attention is, nonetheless, attention.


  1. Ken Goldberg says:


    First, kudos for putting shit-storm in the post title.

    Perhaps if Amscreen had not found it somehow necessary to rebrand what is Quividi as OptimEyes (as if they invented it), and had worked with their partner to manage the press instead of burying their involvement, things may have gone differently. I’m pretty sure the Quividi folks don’t need coaching to leave Minority Report out of the sound bites. Instead, the press might have received proactive and positive remarks, such as “privacy by design”, and found something else to focus on. So it goes.

  2. Since I’m not a movie buff, I missed the inaccuracy of the “Minority Report” reference.

    Amscreen, Quividi, and any company (I happen to work for MorphoTrak) face a challenge – how to describe a technological concept in a way that makes sense to the general public? We all seek the ideal cultural reference so that the layperson immediately understands, “Oh, you’re doing that.” In this case, it looks like someone dropped the ball.

    I was curious about the accuracy of the sex detection capability, so I went to Quividi’s website and read their post on that topic from last year – including the interesting footnote that accuracy decreased when women wore baseball caps. Frankly, identification of sex is a huge challenge – I wonder what the software would have done with Boy George in his heyday.

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