KFC’s new smart restaurant uses facial recognition to suggest orders

EPA / Wu Hong

Kentucky Fried Chicken, commonly known as KFC, opened a new restaurant in Beijing, China, which employs facial recognition software to make recommendations about what customers might like to order based on their age, gender and mood.

The “smart restaurant” campaign is conducted in partnership with the technology giant Baidu, sometimes referred to as the “Google of China,” and also includes offering augmented reality games via table stickers and robot customer service agents. However, while these novelties are introduced in a number of restaurants across the country, the facial recognition technology is unique to a single restaurant in China’s capital for now.

The idea behind the project, supposedly, is to help undecided customers choose a meal by guessing what they want before they even say anything. This way, when you come to the ordering kiosk, the image recognition tech will scan your face, aiming to infer your current mood, along with other information, including your age and gender, in order to come up with a recommendation. For example, a male customer in his early 20s would be told to order a set meal of crispy chicken hamburger, roasted chicken wings and coke for lunch, Baidu explained in a press release. Similarly, a female customer in her 50s would be advised to get porridge and soybean milk for breakfast.

Once the customer has made an order, the system retains his or her image for recognition purposes, so that the next time they visit the restaurant the kiosk can recommend the same or similar meal combination.

While some people find the idea “funky” and appealing, others are concerned about providing their precious personal biometric data to a search engine company just because they are not sure what to order at KFC.


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