For some people, life is a constant game of trying to move through the world with as little unnecessary human interaction as possible. This is especially true before most of us have our first coffee of the day. Luckily, it looks like KFC China has come up with Smile to Pay—a clever way to pay for your meal without even reaching for your wallet. The only catch is that you’ll have to crack a grin.
This pioneering method for poultry payment was developed by Megvii for KFC China in partnership with Alipay, a digital wallet service from Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. All you need to do is tap out your order on a touch-screen, punch in your phone number (for two-factor verification purposes), and contort your facial muscles into something resembling a grin while the 3D camera and facial recognition software (complete with a “live-ness detection algorithm”) do the rest.
Smile to Pay’s rollout coincides with the opening of KPRO in Hangzhou, a healthy, higher-end KFC spinoff serving up items like paninis, salads, and even salmon. Given that its introductory press release touts KPRO’s intention to target “a new generation of sophisticated diners,” a facial payment system connected to a digital wallet fits that bill perfectly. And with KFC’s history of high-tech marketing stunts that have included bluetooth keyboard trays in Germany and meal boxes that can charge your phone in India, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that China’s largest fast food chain is toying with a first-of-its-kind transaction method.
So will customers actually use Smile to Pay, and when will it make its way to American restaurants? It’s too early to tell, but Megvii raised $100 million in funding last December, so tech experts are betting there’s some synergy between facial recognition and the fast food space. But with Hangzhou KPRO set to serve gourmet coffee and craft beer, it sounds like it’ll be worth checking out.