Alibaba is running an experimental café that replaces cashiers with biometric recognition and a mobile app. It’s called the Tao Cafe, and it’s being run as part of the Taobao Maker Festival, an event meant to showcase participants in Alibaba’s Taobao mobile marketplace.
Customers of the Tao Cafe essentially make their purchases through the Taobao app, which features their payment information. Upon entering the store, each customer scans a mobile QR code in front of a camera, which uses facial recognition to link them to their Taobao accounts. The Jakarta Post reports that Tao Cafe items are then selected through the smartphone app, while the Bangkok Post reports that voice recognition – presumably linked to a profile in the Taobao app – is used to enable purchases.
The combination of biometric and mobile technologies thus allows customers to make their purchases without the need for wallets or even to line up, though the convolution of the system may prompt some to wonder whether it’s really more convenient than paying with something like Alipay or Apple Pay, or even cash.
Nevertheless, Alipay is hoping the café offers a strong showcase for its Taobao system, which is billed as a consumer-to-consumer shopping platform, and which reportedly had 189 million users as of this past May.