Reporter Journal / William Hennelly

Facial recognition served with your fried chicken at Beijing restaurant

By William Hennelly (China Daily USA) Updated: 2016-12-29 11:46

Facial recognition served with your fried chicken at Beijing restaurant

When you go to a fast-food restaurant, it's usually with the intention of stuffing your face rather than having it read.

Now Chinese search-engine giant Baidu and fried chicken king KFC China have teamed up in a new "smart restaurant" in Beijing that uses facial recognition technology to recommend food orders by gauging a patron's age, sex and expression, according to

A Baidu press release said that the technology could tell "a male customer in his early 20s" to order "a set meal of crispy chicken hamburger, roasted chicken wings and Coke for lunch", while "a female customer in her 50s" would get "porridge and soybean milk for breakfast".

The endeavor has generated some quips on social media site Weibo:

Virgo July: "What if it scanned my face and came out a combo for middle-age?"

123 symbol: "Next time it scans your face, it's necessary to have some make-up, in case your age is discovered."

Shilegefei: "It would be awesome if you look younger than your age, then you would be served a kid's meal."

The device also has built-in recognition, so it can recall customers' previous orders.

So far it's being used only at the one location, though Baidu has worked with KFC on a pilot smart restaurant in Shanghai, where a robot listens for and recognizes customer orders.

Once primarily the domain of law enforcement and government, facial recognition technology appears poised for regular commercial usage in the US.

In June, the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) finalized its "Privacy Best Practice Recommendations for Commercial Facial Recognition".

Under the Department of Commerce, the NTIA is the executive branch agency responsible for advising the president on telecommunications and information policy issues.

In summing up how commercial establishments should make consumers aware of the facial recording, the NTIA said:

"Generally, policies or disclosures should describe, if applicable, and/or in the appropriate context: the reasonably foreseeable purposes, or examples, for which the covered entity collects and shares facial template data or uses facial recognition technologies; the covered entity's data retention and de-identification practices; and, if the covered entity offers the ability to review, correct, or delete facial template data, the process to accomplish such actions."

It also included this caveat: "These best practices do not apply to security applications, law enforcement, national security, intelligence or military uses, all of which are beyond the scope of this document."

In November, Baidu unveiled facial-recognition technology that it claims is up to 99.77 percent accurate and able to recognize people better than human beings can.

Baidu is starting with a program at the Wuzhen Hotel in the Xizha Scenic Area near Shanghai. The resort gets 8 million visitors per year, and tickets are required to enter parts of it.

Andrew Ng, chief scientist of Baidu Research, at the Silicon Valley branch of the tech company in Sunnyvale, California, told that the technology could be used to deter ticket scalpers. Someone buying a ticket would have to look into a webcam or smartphone camera so the system could match up the face.

It would prevent bots from buying up blocks of tickets the minute they go on sale, he believes.

Ng also sees the technology being used in security situations, such as passport checks at airports.

Ng, who is also the director of the Stanford University Artificial Intelligence Lab, told that Baidu is also working with a company to make facial-recognition door locks for houses.

As for the KFC face scan, whatever it determines, I'd pass on the porridge and order the extra crispy.

Hong Xiao contributed to this story.

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