When Alibaba first started out in 1999, its founder Jack Ma pushed his employees hard to work longer hours so they could out-innovate competitors, especially the ones in Silicon Valley.
One of those innovations was revealed Sunday night, when Ma introduced a new project Alibaba has been working on lately: a facial recognition technology for mobile payments.
According to Re/code, Alibaba is working on a new technology called “Smile To Pay” that will allow users to make mobile payments by simply scanning their face. It would basically work the same way as Apple Pay does with fingerprints, where users can approve mobile payments with a single tap on the home button — only, Alibaba wants to replace fingerprints with the user’s face.
“[Using] online payments to buy things is always a big headache,” Ma said during his speech at CeBit conference in Germany on Sunday. “You forget your password, you worry about security. Today we’ll show you a new technology, how in the future people will buy things online.”
Ma went on to demonstrate the new product, which is currently in test-mode. He took out his smartphone, searched for a product on Alibaba, and simply pressed the “buy” button. Instantly, it brought up a facial recognition screen, and just like that, Ma was done with the purchase.
Ma didn’t take any follow-up questions for the new payment system, so it’s a bit unclear when to expect its official release. But Re/code says sources have told Alibaba is “quite serious about the technology,” while CNBC reports Smile To Pay will be first released in China.
Here’s a video of Ma’s presentation (Smile To Pay demonstration starts at 1:17:45):
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