What are robbers supposed to do now?

One of the bright sides of Osaka having been selected as the host of the 2025 World Expo is that the city is going to work extra hard to get a bunch of cool stuff up and running by then. We’ve already seen plans to get some sweet Star Wars-looking trains with USB charger ports inside, and now subway riders will be able to buy stuff with their faces.

But not just any face, thanks to a partnership with the facial recognition whizzes at NEC, Osaka Metro’s new stores will allow people to pay with a scan of their face even while wearing a mask. That’s because NEC’s I:Delight system appears to make use of a person’s face as well as their irises to confirm their identity.

From 11 April to the end of the month the pop-up store Metro Opus Umeda will offer a range of foods on a weekly basis. For the first week they’ll serve pies and tarts from Pie Queen, a Sapporo-based apple pie specialist. Then from 18 to 24 April, people can buy some fruit sandwiches from Tokyo’s Momonoki with their faces. In the final week of this test run Osaka’s own Kentauros will be stocking the shelves with pirozhki.

Given the nature of the products sold, human staff will be on-hand to serve customers, but payments can be made just by looking at a tablet for a moment. If the system currently under development works as planned, it should greatly cut down on wait time.

The store will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., but for those who can only make it to the Umeda Station location after hours, a special vending machine will be set up outside the shop. This machine can also use facial recognition to make payments, and according to Osaka Metro it will also use the data to learn about consumer habits such as what products are bought by different ages and genders as determined by an AI. However, Osaka Metro says that no personal information is used or stored in the data and all photos are deleted once the analysis is complete.

Also, to sign up for the service no name, birthdate, address, or any other personal information needs to be given except for a photograph of the user’s face. The sign-up is done only through a web browser and asks for an email only, which is interesting since they explicitly said they want to know people’s ages and genders. It seems like they want to rely on the AI alone to try and identify these things. A credit card is needed for the payment to be made, but even then a prepaid Visa card can be used to avoid sharing any personal data.

Anyone can sign up their face for this service now so it’s ready when Metro Opus Umeda opens near the north gate of the Osaka Metro in Umeda Station on 11 April. It’s a great way to experience the future of retail and some delicious apple-blueberry tarts at the same time.

Source: Osaka Metro, NEC via Netlab
Images: Osaka Metro
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