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For toilet paper, line up here to get your face scanned

Spare a square? Facial-recognition technology rolls in to dole out toilet paper, and hopefully thwart TP theft, at a popular tourist destination in China.

A machine recognizes a man's face to give out toilet paper automatically at a bathroom at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.
VCG via Getty Images

Need toilet paper in the restrooms at Bejing's Temple of Heaven Park? You'll have to show your face.

The park has, according to media reports, installed six machines outside its public bathrooms that scan visitors' faces before dispensing a set amount of paper. The facial recognition software is part of a trial aimed at reducing toilet paper theft at the imperial complex of religious buildings, a popular tourist destination in central Beijing.

Visitors have to take off their sunglasses and stare into a screen for 3 seconds before the machine spits out a snip of paper about 2 feet (a little over half a meter) long. If they need more, hopefully they've packed their own surplus stash. Nine minutes must pass before the machines dispense additional paper to the same person.

A park manager at the Unesco World Heritage site said most thieves are local residents hoping to save on everyday costs. An investigative report by Beijing Evening News caught toilet paper thieves making off with long strips of free toilet paper at Temple of Heaven bathrooms. Not all public restrooms in China provide toilet paper.

"We brainstormed many options: fingerprints, infrared and facial recognition," Lei Zhenshan, marketing director for Shoulian Zhineng, the company in Tianjin that designed the device, told The New York Times. "We went with facial recognition, because it's the most hygienic way."

Let's just hope no one in Beijing's keeping a file on toilet paper use.

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