Alipay launches world's first commercial 'Pay with Face' kiosk
By Xie Zhenqi, Gao Yun and Gong Zhe
"Swipe to pay" may still seem modern to you, but now it's possible to pay with nothing but your face.
Chinese e-payment company Alipay on Wednesday launched the world’s first commercial "pay with your face" service in Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province.
Named "Smile to Pay," this is the first time that the facial recognition technology has moved from online to offline stores and has been tested at a public food self-ordering kiosk.
It is now functional at KFC’s new KPro restaurant in the city.
Pay with your face in just four simple steps /Alipay Photo

Pay with your face in just four simple steps /Alipay Photo

After placing order at the self-service terminal, the machine will scan your face with the integrated camera.
Alipay is a third-party online payment platform owned by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. It is the most valuable fintech startup in the world.
The company is already using its facial recognition technology at the app login page in 2015.
Waiting for two years
It only takes a second or two for the machine to read your face. But it took two years for Alipay to make the technology a commercially viable.
The company's founder Jack Ma showcased a demo purchase at CeBIT 2015 in Hannover, Germany. The demo was widely reported, but then it disappeared from mainstream tech media.
Alipay said the two-year time was mainly used to address the security issues of facial recognition payment system.
In today's demo video, Alipay showcased a few scenarios to display  technology's accuracy. 
It works when the user puts on a wig. /Alipay Photo

It works when the user puts on a wig. /Alipay Photo

Or on heavy make-up /Alipay Photo

Or on heavy make-up /Alipay Photo

But users who actually tried the product said on Weibo that the machine still asks customers to key in last four digit of their phone number to finish the payment.
"It's one step slower than the QR code," a user nicknamed "Hamniba" said.
Safety concerns
Facial recognition is popular in-app login and security checks at airports. However, making it a commercially viable has been a challenge in both domestic and global market.
"While Smile to Pay provides convenience for users like never before, we have always placed security at the core of this technology," said Jidong Chen, Ant Financial’s director of biometric identification technology.
"We use 3D camera and lifeforms detection algorithm to prevent spoofing attempts using photos or video recordings," Chen added.
A graphic illustration of the technology /Alipay Photo

A graphic illustration of the technology /Alipay Photo

How is it important?
So, besides the benefit of freeing from memorizing complex password combinations, why else is paying with your face important?
Facial recognition prevents crimes involving illegal use of stolen identities. Those who try to use stolen identity for illegal transactions can no longer succeed, even if they are in possession of your ID.
More than 1.5 billion people around the world – mostly in Asia and Africa -- do not have access to basic financial services because of lack of identity verification, according to Alipay.