This Chinese KFC lets you put your money where your mouth is

A KFC concept restaurant is using facial recognition technology so that diners can bypass cash and plastic.

Michelle Meyers
Michelle Meyers wrote and edited CNET News stories from 2005 to 2020 and is now a contributor to CNET.
Michelle Meyers

Ant Financial, the maker of the "Smile to Pay" facial recognition payment platform, shows in a demo video how even disguises and multiple people in the background won't trip up the system. 

Screenshot by CNET/Ant Financial

Smile! You just paid for that meal with your face.

A health-food KFC concept restaurant in Hangzhou, China has installed an Alipay facial recognition payment system that lets diners pay for their meals with a smile and their mobile phone number. KFC's KPRO is the first restaurant to use the "Smile to Pay" system designed by Ant Financial Services Group, an Alibaba Group affiliate. 

"Smile to Pay" is the first service of its type, according to Ant, though it's certainly not the first use of facial recognition for payment services. Samsung, PayPal, MasterCard and NEC are among the firms that have been testing the technology. Apple's next iPhone may also offer it

In addition to scanning their faces at an ordering kiosk, KPRO diners must enter their phone numbers, a safeguard against fraud. (Click here for a demo video.) Ant says it's steadily improved the technology since a beta version was first unveiled by Alibaba founder Jack Ma in 2015 at CEBIT in Germany. It was also demoed in January at CES.

KFC introduced the KPRO restaurant in July to attract consumers looking for healthier fare than its trademark "finger-licking good" fried chicken. The new restaurant's menu includes items like salads and juices. 

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