Has anyone else noticed UPS’s new potato camera?

Last year some time, FedEx started sending photos of packages they’d delivered. Because FedEx is truly terrible at delivering packages to me, I’ve found it a useful feature to know that they did indeed leave my package on some random porch that’s not mine. Here’s a sample of a FedEx photo, one of the rare ones that’s actually my porch:

UPS started doing the same thing last week. It’s less useful for UPS, because they actually deliver my packages. But the thing I noticed is that the quality of the photos is truly terrible.

I started to wonder how, in 2023, UPS could be producing such terrible images. My first thought that was that they were just compressed excessively and poorly, but on further reflection I think the quality of the original photo is just really, really bad.

So I’ve got a completely uninformed theory: FedEx decided to start offering these photos and upgraded their equipment to do so. Someone at UPS thought it looked bad that FedEx offered the photos and UPS didn’t, so they decided they needed them too. Only, they decided that upgrading their little scanner clipboard gizmo to have a proper camera would be prohibitively expensive. But they realized that it did already sort of have a camera: it has a 3D barcode reader. I’m guessing that a modern 3D barcode reader is simply a cheap CCD camera with a fixed lens that’s optimized to focus on something about 12 inches away and some firmware that does the barcode scanning. So they updated the clipboard firmware to take photos of deliveries, only the crappy lens is still focused about 12 inches away.

I have no idea if it’s true or not, but I like my theory.

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