September 5, 2019

Tech companies are betting that skin is the next frontier in the checkout aisle

Amazon is testing a biometric checkout process that will enable Whole Foods shoppers to make purchases by scanning their hands.

Amazon is testing out a system — code-named “Orville” — that allows customers to scan their hands to pay for their purchases, the New York Post reports.

Orville, which Amazon hopes to roll out at Whole Foods in the next several months, is a way for e-Goliath to speed up checkout at its stores.

So, how does it work?

The system scans hands using computer vision and depth geometry to make a distinct profile of each customer’s hand — like a fingerprint, but touch-free. 

Then ol’ Orville charges the credit card on file that’s associated with that hand’s Prime membership-holding owner. Amazon employees are testing the system in the company’s New York offices by hand-buying snacks from vending machines.

Right now, Orville is accurate at identifying hands to within 1/10,000 of 1% (Amazon plans to improve accuracy to within 1/1,000,000 of 1% before public launch). 

But if you think Big Bad Bezos is the only one testing out skin-tech, then may you be haunted by the ghost of Steve Jobs…

Cuz you better believe Apple’s also got skin in the game

This week, Apple patented a Watch band that IDs people using their wrist skin.

Apple likely doesn’t have definite plans for its skin-ID strap yet. But, like Amazon, Apple wants to make authentication frictionless — smooth, like a baby’s bottom — so it can process payments that much faster.

Credit card transactions typically take 3 to 4 seconds. Amazon’s new Orville system, on the other hand, can process a payment in 300 milliseconds — 10x faster.

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