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Technology/Services

Is Amazon Testing Biometric Payments?

Report claims Whole Foods piloting scanners that identify a person’s hand
Photograph: Shutterstock

NEW YORK — Employees at Amazon’s New York offices are testing biometric checkout technologies to be deployed at Whole Foods Market in the coming months, according to a report by the New York Post.

The Post claimed Amazon is testing scanners that identify a person’s hand, though it does not require users to physically touch the scanner. It also reported that the technology—code-named Orville—will be used for customers with Amazon Prime. The technology can complete transactions in less than 300 milliseconds, said the report.

Amazon aims to launch the hand-reading tech in select Whole Foods locations by the beginning of next year, the Post said, citing an unnamed source. If the technology were to roll out, it would differ from the "just walk out" technology at the Amazon Go stores. There, customers scan a QR code on a turnstile to enter, simply grab the items they want and leave.

Amazon would not comment on the accuracy of the Post’s claims. “We do not comment on rumors or speculation,” an Amazon spokesperson told CSP.

The Post and other media outlets speculate that Amazon might have chosen biometric scanning as an alternative to facial recognition, a controversial form of identification.

This is not the first time the Post has speculated on brick-and-mortar moves from Amazon. In 2017, it said Amazon was planning a 10,000- to 40,000-square-foot large-format store that could be managed by as few as three human workers. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos went to Twitter to refute the article, saying the source for the Post’s story had “mixed up their meds.” To date, Amazon has not opened anything resembling the store the Post described.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg recently reported that a 10,400-square-foot retail location owned by Amazon in Seattle was originally designed to be more akin to a grocery store than the convenience-store setup of Amazon Go.

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