Japan from the inside out

We know what you want

Posted by ampontan on Friday, August 10, 2012

HOSPITALITY in Japan means anticipating what your guest wants before the guest expresses a preference for something (though guests in Japan refrain from directly expressing preferences anyway.)

The city fathers of Himeji, Hyogo, have amplified that cultural trait and automated it. Working with Glory, a company that makes cash processing machines for banks and other companies, they’ve developed a device that uses face recognition technology to identify the sex and general age of tourists and to use that data to offer sightseeing options. The machine has been installed in the JR Himeji station.

Here’s how it works: Tourists stand still in front of the camera for a face scan that lasts just a few seconds. In addition to making gender distinctions — no, there was no mention that it was equipped with an odor sensor — it makes a rough division by age: teenagers, 20s, 40s, and 60s and above.

The folks who want more detailed information, can’t stand the idea of being scanned, or would rather deal with a human being can speak directly to tourist personnel at the counter or get a brochure.

The Himejians say the objective wasn’t just to automate the procedure or to cop some PR. The old castle in town is undergoing repairs, and the number of annual visitors is down to 700 thousand from the normal level of a million. The new machine gives the city’s tourist bureau the chance to plug the local art museum and the City Museum of Literature. The information they provide also changes seasonally.

It would be fun to know how they programmed it. What are the physical criteria for recommending the literature museum? Do they also recommend eating and drinking establishments? Say, where does a guy go in this town for a good time?

Here’s what Tachibana Hajime recommended for Two Egyptians. That’s got to be Suzuki Saeko playing the marimba.

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