Futuristic biometric schemes—think "I, Robot," "The Incredibles" or "Minority Report"—are jumping from the silver screen into the mainstream, and entrepreneurs and credit card companies are harnessing the technology in an effort to pry open the wallets of fretful online spenders.
And you thought biometrics was all about security.
How will biometrics help turn you become a more carefree impulse shopper? Unwieldy password schemes combined with jitters about security are dampening e-commerce, with consumers abandoning their online shopping carts on more than two out of three forays, according to a compilation of 22 studies by researcher Baymard Institute.
More than two decades after the Web's launch, only 5.8 percent of U.S. retail sales are transacted digitally, according to an August report from the Census Bureau.
Evidence of online insecurity grows daily, with hacks by groups like Anonymous and the Syrian Electronic Army and marquee victims from Apple to Nasdaq to Facebook to The New York Times. Biometrics experts say their technologies will put concerns to rest by adding new layers of authentication while improving the experience of users burdened with multiple logins and passwords.
While the fingerprint scanner on Apple's iPhone 5S raised the profile of physical biometrics and hopes for a bump in mobile commerce, developing technology is not stopping at physical factors like iris or facial geometry scans.
(Read more: Stop those theives—they stole my bitcoins!)
The future is multimodal, according to Josh Alexander, CEO of Toopher, a start-up based in Austin, Texas. The best authentication systems will combine something you know, like a password, something you are, like a fingerprint, and something you have, like a mobile phone, he added.
Toopher, whose tools are used as a security layer by email marketer MailChimp and password automator LastPass, uses behavioral biometrics through mobile phones to map users' location, travel and payment patterns, and to let them automate their second layer. To create a seamless experience, Toopher's app lets users set up automatic log-ins at a particular location on a specified computer or mobile device.