Facial recognition technology is stirring public fears.

While “Facial Recognition Fury” was one of our 100 Things to Watch in 2012, it’s only recently that the technology is stirring public fears. Intel, which is prepping an over-the-top TV service, said earlier this week that it no longer intends to include a camera and facial-recognition software in the set-top box—intended as a way to automatically personalize programming—due to technical obstacles as well as consumer backlash. 

Despite Intel’s technical issues (which stemmed from the fact that TV viewers are usually in dim light), the technology has evolved quickly. Beyond services like Amscreen’s OptimEyes that can readily determine a person’s gender and age for targeted display advertising, facial recognition software can also single out specific people. NEC’s VIP Identification service has been making headlines for its ability to detect celebrities or other VIPs for retailers and hospitality clients. Alerts are sent to personnel when a match is found. The software, initially deployed for security systems, is reportedly being tested in a dozen stores and hotels in the U.K., the U.S. and Asia. And in Finland, the startup Uniqul has patented a facial recognition system that lets a registered customer pay at a checkout terminal with a simple nod of the head.

The next step is Emotion Recognition, one of our 100 Things to Watch in 2013. In Russia, cosmetics chain Ulybka Radugi is testing a checkout-screen system from the startup Synqera that combines data analysis (using loyalty cards, etc.) with emotion recognition to tailor discounts and messaging. As an example, a Synqera spokesperson told Time that if a woman isn’t smiling and the system sees that she often buys body care products, the screen may suggest a pampering product, display a funny image, or offer a bonus.

Impressively futuristic as they are, widespread use of such systems will depend on consumer adoption and comfort. (We’ve been writing about the e-wallet for years, after all.)