KAYANA SZYMCZAK FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE
If you feel the gaze of a stranger next time you walk into a Boston bar, it might just be a robot sizing you up: SceneTap says it has expanded to thirty local locations, raising concerns even as it wins customers.
In November, Steve Annear reported that Austin-based SceneTap had debuted in Boston with 20 bars, letting patrons tap into facial-detection software to figure out which venues were crowded versus chill and which had more men versus women while letting bars tap into a new source of real-time customer analytics.
(I did a quick count of the bars listed in the app’s interface and only counted 25. See below for my list.)
The company said it doesn’t keep any databases of individuals, and instead the software just tries to ascertain the demographics of a bar at any given moment: The total number of patrons, gender ratio, approximate ages.
Right now, most consumer concerns seem to be focused on the potential of the technology, particularly given the history of companies like Google and Facebook to rewrite the way they handle privacy on the fly. But SceneTap’s chief executive Cole Harper told the Globe’s James H. Burnett III he has no interest in invading privacy.
“We did not file for patents with plans to invade people’s privacy,” he said. “We don’t even have a database that we can access. We don’t save information gathered on the detection readers.”
As with all technology, however, it’s understandable that industry watchers add a quiet “yet” to those statements: Even if SceneTap doesn’t plan to venture into that territory, it seems unlikely it will remain completely unexplored.
According to the app’s venue list, current SceneTap-sporting bars are:
— Down Ultra Lounge
— Howl at the Moon
— Jose McIntryre’s
— Vintage Lounge
— Battery Park
— The Place
— Kitty O’Shea’s
— Paddy O’s
— Green Dragon
— Bell in Hand Tavern
— Beantown Pub
— The Greatest Bar
— Porters Bar and Grill
— Sweet Caroline’s
— Who’s on First
— Baseball Tavern
— T’s Pub