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Alibaba, in nod to VR shopping, lets you pay with a head-tilt

Browsing in a Chinese virtual-reality mall? Keep your chin up -- or else.

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First one to nod out pays for lunch.
Josh Miller/CNET

Forget "You break it, you buy it." In the world of virtual reality, a better warning might be, "Sneeze in front of it, it's yours."

China-based e-commerce giant Alibaba is developing a system designed to let shoppers in VR malls pay by simply nodding.

"It is very boring to have to take off your goggles for payment," a technologist working on the project told Reuters. "With this, you will never need to take out your phone."

It's not the first intriguing VR initiative Alibaba has dreamed up. In May, Taobao, an Alibaba-owned online marketplace similar to Amazon, tried to get people in China to shop with VR headsets by letting them pair up with a virtual boyfriend or girlfriend, each played by a popular actor.

Phone-based mobile-payment systems, including Alibaba's Alipay, are big in China, with people using them to pony up for everything from air and rail tickets to utilities to lunch. Now folks wearing headsets won't have to deal with handsets.

The VR Pay system is expected to be ready for consumers in China by year's end, Reuters reports. It'll still require a password to confirm a user's identity, but that can be entered via head movements as well.