Beijing KFC using facial recognition tech to predict your order

11 Jan 2017

KFC outlet in Beijing, China. Image: testing/Shutterstock

The fast food outlet KFC has established a major foothold in China, where its Beijing restaurant is now using AI and facial recognition to predict your order.

The major American fast food outlets like McDonalds, Burger King and KFC have quickly adapted their markets to suit a technological generation, but the latter plans to take it to another level.

According to The Guardian, the KFC restaurant in Beijing’s financial district has decided to team up with the country’s search giant Baidu to develop a platform that would use facial recognition and AI to predict a customer’s order.

However, based on what a KFC spokesperson has said, it would appear to be a technology heavily reliant on age and gender profiling, which some may think isn’t very smart at all.

In the examples given in a Baidu press release, the system would offer a male customer in his early 20s a “set meal of crispy chicken hamburger, roasted chicken wings and Coke”, whereas a woman in her 50s will be offered “porridge and soybean milk for breakfast”.

During a test conducted by The Guardian journalist Amy Hawkins, the technology was able to recognise that she was a woman, but was off by a decade in terms of age.

Despite this, she was still offered a chicken burger meal similar to a male in his 20s, but was also offered a smaller menu to choose from based on some more suggestions.

Merging of fast food, robotics and AI

This isn’t the first time that KFC and Baidu have partnered on introducing new technology to the fast food outlet, with a video released early last year showing plans for robot staff and smart tables that will wirelessly connect with a phone to play music.

While not at an advanced level yet, both KFC and Baidu have said that they eventually want to create a “personalised ordering experience” capable of recognising repeat customers and recommending their usual order.

In the coming years, smart ordering systems are expected to increase considerably. A report from Business Insider Intelligence predicted that smartphone orders will soon make up more than 10pc of all fast food orders in a $38bn industry.

KFC outlet in Beijing, China. Image: testing/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic