Monday, May 12, 2008

Cigarette machines 'to measure wrinkles, crow's feet'

Cigarette vending machines in Japan may soon start counting wrinkles, crow's feet and skin sags to see if the customer is old enough to smoke.

The legal age for smoking in Japan is 20 and as the country's 570,000 tobacco vending machines prepare for a July regulation requiring them to ensure buyers are not underage, a company has developed a system to identify age by studying facial features.

By having the customer look into a digital camera attached to the machine, Fujitaka Co's system will compare facial characteristics, such as wrinkles surrounding the eyes, bone structure and skin sags, to the facial data of over 100,000 people, Hajime Yamamoto, a company spokesman said.

"With face recognition, so long as you've got some change and you are an adult, you can buy cigarettes like before. The problem of minors borrowing [identification] cards to purchase cigarettes could be avoided as well," Mr Yamamoto said.

Japan's Finance Ministry has already given permission to an age-identifying smart card called "taspo" and a system that can read the age from driving licences.


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