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AI-Powered Vending Machine from Mars Stirs Up Controversy


Bad UI design led to an embedded system showing a conspicuous error message, kicking off controversy. Vending machines deployed by candy company Mars revealed they were using face recognition. Further investigation showed that this could be to gather demographic information, not just to detect user presence, hearkening back to another technology supplier that had amassed embeddings representing users’ faces.

Among the unusual processor-related aspects of this case is the use of USB to connect the optical sensor (the tech supplier dares not call it a camera, especially as it somehow claims the machines analyze images without taking pictures). This suggests that the design isn’t based on a so-called application processor, as these usually have MIPI interfaces to reduce design cost. It’s likely based on a PC-like board because these are easy to integrate and offer a familiar software environment, and the “.exe” in Invenda.Vending.FacialRecognitionApp.exe Application Error suggests it’s running Windows.


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