In a tech advance out of I Dream of Jeannie, China-based e-commerce giant Alibaba is developing a VR Pay system enabling shoppers in virtual reality malls to pay with a nod of the head.
The VR Pay system is expected to be ready for consumers in China by year’s end, CNET reports. It will still require a password to confirm a user’s identity, but that can be entered via head movements as well.
Alibaba’s $60 billion online financial services arm Ant Financial Services Group has been working on the service for months. “It is very boring to have to take off your goggles for payment,” Lin Feng, in charge of Ant’s incubator F Lab, told Reuters. “With this, you will never need to take out your phone.”
User identity is verified via account logins on connected devices or via voice print technology, but passwords are still required for authentication. “The user can also enter with head movements, touch, or by staring at a point on virtual display for longer than 1.5 seconds,” added Feng.
Ant operates Alipay, which has more than 450 million daily users. Ant has been exploring possibilities for payment methods including pay-by-selfie facial recognition technology and biometric solutions such as eye-scanning in tandem with its recent acquisition of EyeVerify.
“The most important opportunity on the horizon is not growing online sales in isolation but rather helping traditional retailers upgrade into a brand-new retail model,” Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang told shareholders. “The consumer retail industry as a whole is experiencing radical disruption driven by digital transformation. Data has already become the new ‘natural resource’ that is as vital as oil and electricity. Cloud computing is the new ‘engine’ powering commercial operations.”
Chinese retail websites sold almost $590 billion worth of goods in 2015, according to an Internet Retailer. Alibaba saw $485 billion worth of goods purchased on its online marketplaces in fiscal 2016, an increase of 27 percent from 2015.
“Fifty-five percent of respondents said they expected VR would impact their consumer decisions, and a third said they would be more likely to shop with retailers that offered a VR experience,” according to Walker Sands’ annual Future of Retail survey of US consumers. “Interestingly, respondents reported they’d be more likely to consider buying certain goods while using VR—with clothing, electronics, household goods, luxury items and books especially popular.”
“It’s about offering value-added services to customers in physical venues,” said Victor Bogey, CEO of Ubudu Asia. “And although the technology is likely to rapidly change, Alibaba’s grip is not.”
VR is predicted to become a $4 billion industry by 2018, reports loyalty program firm Sweet Tooth. “There are even some schools of thought that believe virtual reality is going to be for Generation Z what smartphones are to Millennials.”