In China, the future of retail is already here. Alibaba Group launched its second Taobao Maker Festival on July 8th and introduced the Tao Café, an experimental cashier-less coffee shop driven by face recognition. Alibaba’s AI and data technologies have made it possible for customers to shop in this offline store without going through the time-consuming process of queuing to pay.

When a user walks to the counter and says she wants a cup of Americano, her face is scanned through the screen and deducts the coffee price from her Alipay account. Such facial recognition payment is backed by Alibaba’s artificial intelligence. Alibaba’s facial recognition payment was first shown to journalists who participated in 2016 Taobao Global Shopping day held on November 11th, Chinese Singles’ Day.

While Tao Café runs with some clerks who prepare the food, buying goods at the Tao Café is done digitally, without the help of a human cashier. Users can grab physical goods and walk through a 1-meter long scanner to purchase the product using Alipay.

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Eva Yoo

Eva Yoo is Shanghai-based tech writer. Reach her at evayoo@technode.com