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KFC, Baidu Arranging Facial Recognition System

January 4, 2017         By: Steven Anderson

It’s a bizarre equation to say the least: start with “Baidu” and add “KFC China”—yes, Kentucky Fried Chicken—and what do you get? If your answer was “easy access heartburn,” you’re even more cynical than I am. If your answer was “biometrics,” go buy a lottery ticket right now, because today is your day for long guesses turned right.

Seriously, that’s what’s going on. Baidu and KFC China are working together on “smart restaurant” elements that can recognize a shopper based on facial characteristics, projected age and gender and make menu suggestions from there. It can even make projections based on perceived mood.

For instance, a twentysomething male might get a recommendation for “a crispy chicken hamburger, roasted chicken wings and a Coke,” while a fifty-ish female might instead get “porridge and soybean milk.”

Where this really shines is that, eventually, the system may be able to recognize a customer and know his or her “usual”, setting up the order right when the customer is perceived to approach.

About the only way this could get more interesting is if customers had the option to connect a mobile payment option to the biometric recognition, and customers could just charge the order right from whatever interface was connected to the system. That would make ordering food incredibly fast and smooth; customers place an order based on history, tap a button to use a previously-registered payment system—which could be done away from the restaurant at home or the like—and walk out with the dinner in question.

Yet, I’m skeptical. Recommendations based on mood and the like are all fine and well, but how much of the user base is going to find this too intrusive to be reasonable, and how many would actually use this service over a mobile payment and ordering system? Are KFC and Baidu solving the wrong problem here? And are they letting themselves in for more problem than solution?

The idea is a noteworthy and exciting one, but given the other options already available in the field, we may not have a great idea here so much as an idea that would have been great before we discovered mobile payment and ordering.