It is late and you’re craving food. Regular fried chicken just won’t do. However, Kentucky Fried Chicken is a different story. So you go to a local KFC and ask the person behind the counter what you should get. A few minutes later, you sit down with your crispy chicken hamburger and feast. You may be wondering why you are at KFC and eating a hamburger. While that is strange, the weirdest part is that the employee working the counter was a facial recognition robot. It decided what you liked by scanning your face. Welcome to the next generation of fast food in China.
Baidu, the Chinese equivalent of Google, recently announced the new restaurant concept in Beijing. Partnering with KFC, the internet company’s kiosk conducts a quick facial scan of the customer. The “smart restaurant” considers your age, weight, gender and mood. Based on a complex algorithm, it quickly determines what the customer would like to eat. For instance, the kiosk recommends the aforementioned crispy chicken hamburger and chicken wings to a 20-year-old male. On the other hand, a 50-year-old female receives a meal recommendation of soybean milk and porridge. Yum.
Based on these recommendations, the system still requires some fine-tuning. There are certainly 50-year-old women who want fried chicken. This is not the first time something like that has been tried. A Japanese firm offers a similar facial recognition technology for dispensing drinks from a vending machines. However, unlike in Japan, the smart kiosks at KFC can recognize repeat customers. When a repeat customer orders, the algorithm pulls up all the customer’s previous orders. That’s great in theory, but in reality people don’t want KFC storing their personal facial map in some greasy database.
It remains to be seen how successful facial recognition proves in the fast food industry. Nevertheless, this is not the first pairing between Baidu and KFC. Last year, the companies opened an Original+ restaurant in Shanghai. The restaurant, located in the National Exhibition and Convention Center, lets customers place orders via Baidu’s Duer robots.