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self checkout digital face supermarket

Digitised faces shown to reduce self-checkout theft

Image credit: Abertay University

Shoplifting incidences could be reduced with digitised human faces at supermarket self-checkouts, an Abertay University study has found.

Previous research has indicated that rising automation in retail has increased the likelihood of customers behaving dishonestly.

Researchers at the Scottish university developed virtual characters to examine whether their presence at tills would affect shopper behaviour.

Participants in the study were asked to scan or weigh items before paying for them and gave them the chance to scan fewer items or select lesser weights.

They discovered that a realistic, human-like face resulted in fewer instances of dishonesty among customers than less human-like characters.

Susan Siebenaler, who conducted the research for her PhD, said: “The participants were placed in situations in which they could benefit financially through dishonest behaviour.

“Participants appeared to be positively influenced by greater social presence, such as human-like features, which meant they were less likely to cheat.”

Dr Andrea Szymkowiak, senior lecturer in human computer interaction, said: “People are responsive to social human cues, and there seems to be an in-built mechanism that makes us respond to faces and eye contact.

“The idea here is that the presence of human-like digital characters may influence shopper behaviour, but further research is required to determine the real-world benefit of such technology.”

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