Life with A.I.

You can pay for your burger with your face at this fast food restaurant, thanks to A.I.

As of Tuesday, customers of CaliBurger is Pasadena, Calif., can pay for a their order with their face.
Photo courtesy Cali Group
As of Tuesday, customers of CaliBurger is Pasadena, Calif., can pay for a their order with their face.

At CaliBurger in Pasadena, California, the future is real: Customers can cash out their order by smiling at a screen.

"To our knowledge, this is the first time in America that customers in a retail environment can pay without needing a physical or digital wallet," says John Miller, CEO of Cali Group, the parent company for CaliBurger, in a statement.

At the end of 2017, Cali Group piloted the face-based recognition technology for customers to log in to their loyalty accounts and order on large-scale touchpad kiosks at the Pasadena CaliBurger.

The more comprehensive technology, allowing face-based recognition for payment, was available to the public for the first time on Tuesday at the same location.

"The positive customer reaction to face based loyalty login at the kiosks encouraged us to quickly deploy face based payments at the kiosks," Miller says.

Now a customer can go to the restaurant, smile at the camera in the ordering kiosk to open their loyalty account, place their order on the touchpad and then pay with a second smile for the camera. For now, a customer will also have to enter the three-digit CVV security code from their credit card to process the transaction.

Eventually, when the AI-powered, face-based recognition software has a proven track record, CaliBurger wants to eliminate the use of the security code.

CaliBurger aims to roll out the AI-powered face payment technology to additional locations in Seattle and then in the Maryland and Washington D.C. area. Currently, CaliBurger has 40 locations, stretching from Mexico to China and Saudi Arabia to Sweden. The plan is to enable the technology all across the globe in the next 12 months.

The combination of touch-screen ordering and facial-recognition payment means CaliBurger uses fewer human workers in the restaurant. That saves the company money.

"We are constantly struggling with labor cost issues in the United States and so self-ordering kiosks, which allow people to directly order — and to order in a more efficient way, by logging in with their face and paying with their face — reduces our labor costs and makes the restaurant operate more efficiently," says Miller, in a video about the new technology.

In addition to reducing labor costs, the AI kiosks allow CaliBurger to keep track of a customer's preferences and habits. And with that, the restaurant can use to make recommendations in the future.

"These face-based technologies — artificial intelligence, machine vision — allow us to see our customer in the offline world like Amazon sees its customer in the online world. And that allows us to create tailored experiences for the customer and also allows us to directly target that customer in new ways when they come back to the restaurants."

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