Visual interfaces are already being usurped by voice control, but if Amazon gets its way perhaps we'll be waving goodbye to interfaces altogether. The New York Post reports that the retail giant is testing a new biometric payment system that will let shoppers at Whole Foods pay for their orders by simply waving their hand over a scanner. That's some Star Wars sh*t right there.
The project, code named Orville, is still at user testing (opens in new tab) stage right now. Reports suggests Amazon's New York office employees are acting as guinea-pigs for the system, using modified vending machines to pay for snacks via the new system. The proposed end game, however, is to enable shoppers to saunter into a Whole Foods store armed with nothing but a smile and (presumably) a reusable shopping bag. The scanning system will identify the customer and charge the purchase to the card on their file.
Amazon is known for pushing the envelope when it comes to tech (see our guide to Amazon devices (opens in new tab) for a taster), but this feels like breaking new ground entirely. Fast Company reports that the tech will work without the consumer having to actually place their hand on the scanner. Thanks for computer vision and depth geometry, the system will be able to identify the shopper by just a wave of the hand in the scanner's direction. Face scanning was perhaps vetoed for being too creepy.
There's no doubt the finance industries are in a period of change up at the moment, with young upstarts such as Monzo shaking up traditional payment models, coupled with the rising popularity of non-card payment systems like Apple Pay. Ecommerce websites (opens in new tab) are increasingly immersive and impressive, and counties like China already have some biometric checkout systems.
What does this mean for branding and UX in the finance sector? Perhaps Apple has made a mistake with its Apple Card (opens in new tab) and its ridiculous care instructions (opens in new tab), and shoppers are looking for something altogether more 'organic'. Or perhaps the idea of giving Amazon your handprint data is one step too far.
No need to worry just yet – all of this is very much unconfirmed by Amazon. A spokesperson told the NY Post: "We don’t comment on rumors or speculation." Does seem plausible though, doesn't it?
Supermarket chain Whole Foods was acquired by Amazon in 2017. The vast majority of stores are in the US, but recent years have seen expansion into Canada and the UK.
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