A restaurant chain in the United States is testing out an AI-enabled self-ordering kiosk that uses facial recognition to identify customers and recall their favorite food orders. Is this the future of fast food ordering or a weird gimmick that people will not embrace?
Restaurant chain Caliburger is no stranger to new technology. Earlier in 2017 the company tested a robotic cook named Flippy, designed to take care of the tedious job of watching and flipping burger patties. After a successful pilot program the chain plans to roll out the robots in 50 of its restaurants starting in 2018.
The latest tech experiment involves incorporating NEC's NeoFace facial recognition software into a self-ordering kiosk. Once customers have opted in they will have all the details from their loyalty account instantly brought up on screen upon approaching a kiosk.
"Face-based loyalty significantly reduces the friction associated with loyalty program registration and use; further, it enables a restaurant chain like CaliBurger to provide a customized, one-on-one interactive experience at the ordering kiosk," says Chairman and CEO of Cali Group, John Miller.
The initial test program will not be using facial recognition for the payment stage of a transaction – that will still require a good old credit card swipe – but the company hopes to incorporate face-based payments within the next year.
A system was launched in China recently that takes a similar facial recognition system into a retail environment. Called "Smile to Pay", these kiosks are being trailed in some KFC restaurants in Hangzhou, China. The payment system being tested still needs a smartphone verification from the customer, so it isn't entirely automated to the facial recognition system … yet.
After the controversial launch of the new iPhone's facial recognition system earlier this year it is yet to be seen whether the general public are ready to embrace this kind of technology. It is fair to question how complex and secure the system's facial biometric data is, especially if the plan is to connect this to automatic payment processes.
And, underlying this entire exercise, is the fundamental question of whether you would want your order history at a fast food restaurant to automatically pop up on a screen as you enter the premises. Remember that time you ordered two super-sized meals and ate them both on your own?
Take a look at the system in action in the video below.
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