Facial Recognition App Will Let You Buy Booze at Self-checkout

This marvellous new app will revolutionise your shopping experience, says Christopher Little.

Christopher Little
20th November 2017
Decisions, decisions. Photo: David Shankbone, [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

There are moments in history when a technological advancement revolutionises the way we live. Well, I’m happy to say this is one of those moments. British start-up Yoti has created an invention that completely changes everything. They have developed a facial recognition app that will allow you to buy alcoholic beverages from a self-service checkout without the need to converse or interact with another human being. Hallelujah!

Guessing someone’s age has always been a perilous task. That’s because, for some strange reason, the amount of time one has spent spinning through the cosmos is a peculiarly sensitive topic to us humans. Some people will take offence if you overestimate the amount of times they have orbited the Sun, others will take offence if you underestimate.

If you’re ever unlucky enough to be put on the spot and forced to hazard a guess at someone’s age, you’re stumbling into dangerous territory. If you’re too wide of the mark, you’ll have the pleasure of an uncomfortably awkward moment and a potential new nemesis in your life.

Our fragile emotions, however, are of no concern to machines and computer programs.

With younger generations striving to look older, and older generations striving to look younger, causing offence has never been so easy – so spare a thought for those whose occupation entails asking people to prove how old they are (particularly with schemes like 'Challenge 21/25/30' – "What, you don't think I'm under 30?!"). Because of our innate disposition to not cause offence, it’s not surprising that many approach this job requirement with a degree of trepidation.

Our fragile emotions, however, are of no concern to machines and computer programs. This should make them more suited to the role of age verification: their interminable indifference means they will never hesitate to ask, and no matter how sensitive a person is regarding their age, they surely can’t get offended by an automated system? Sadly, though, computer-based age verification has been a tad circumspect up to now (e.g. ‘tick if you are over 18’).

Technology company Yoti are looking to change all of that. The London based security start-up is aiming to become the world’s most trusted identity platform and already has plans to trial their new facial recognition app in two supermarkets in 2018. The free-to-consumer app will allow customers to buy age-restricted products, such as your favourite bottle of gin, from self-service checkouts – without the need for you to be beset by staff.

Aim your camera at your beautiful face and Bob’s your uncle, the booze is yours...

In a quintessentially modern approach, the app begins by asking you to take a selfie. It’s probably best not to add too many filters to it, though, as you need to pair the photo with an official document, such as a passport. Users will then just need to confirm their mobile number via text message and take a quick test to prove they are who they say they are.

Once you have it set up and you get to a self-service checkout a QR code will appear on the screen; hold your phone up to it and it will activate your camera, aim it at your beautiful face and Bob’s your uncle, the booze is yours (of course you need to pay for it as well).

Some will have concerns with registering details of official documents with third-party companies, but Yoti says the data will be encrypted and they will have no access to it. Robin Tombs, co-founder and head of Yoti, believes the tech also has potential to be used in places such as pubs and on dating sites.

But most importantly, it will help alleviate those pesky bottlenecks (no pun intended) at the self-service checkouts, and mean you aren’t judged for your questionable drinking habits or your youthful/mature complexion.

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