Alipay is launching a beauty filter for facial recognition payments

By Nicole Jao
2 min read

Alipay is launching a new beauty filter feature for its facial recognition payment system “Smile to Pay,” in an effort to boost usage among female users.

The company told TechNode that a beauty filter will be automatically applied when users scan their faces to make purchases so that facial features displayed on the machines are slightly enhanced.

The new feature will be rolled out nationwide within the next week.

The Chinese mobile payment operator posted on its official Weibo account that many of its female users choose not to use “Smile to Pay” system because they think that they look too ugly on the screen.

On a running poll on Sina Tech’s Weibo page, as of Wednesday morning more than 60% of respondents said that they appear less attractive on facial recognition payment machine screens while less than 10% of the people think they look the same as in photos. Around 27% of respondents said they cared more about the payment function than how they appear onscreen.

Screenshot of a poll on Weibo that asks people whether they feel “ugly” when making purchases with facial-scan payment system. (Image credit: TechNode)

Alipay’s new beauty cam feature quickly attracted hundreds of users to comment on Weibo, where many share the same fear of embarrassing themselves in public and becoming self-aware about their looks when their faces are on display.

“First, I’m worried that I look ugly on screen without the 45-degree selfie angle. Second, the machine probably wouldn’t recognize me when I have makeup on and that would be very embarrassing,” wrote one user using a handle which translates roughly into @Daydreamer_Vince.

Alipay rolled out the Dragonfly payment system late last year, which allows customers to make a payment by scanning their faces in front of a point-of-sale (POS) machines mainly at retail locations.

“The front-facing camera distorts your face. When you’re paying at checkout with a line of people lined up behind you who can see your ugly face… I can’t accept that,” said Weibo user cited by Sina Tech.

Another Weibo user complained that what’s displayed on the screen is worse than her ID photos and that even her own mother wouldn’t recognize her, according to the Sina Tech report.

China has been quick to embrace facial recognition technology, which is being used for making payments at grocery stores, checking in at hotels, and even for verifying the identities of ride-hailing drivers.

Alipay, which has around 900 million users globally, launched the “Smile to Pay” facial recognition system in September 2017 for commercial use. Its self-developed facial recognition payment system has been deployed in more than 300 cities across China, according to the company. The company previously said that it expects facial recognition payments to grow explosively in the next three years. The company revealed in April plans to spend RMB 3 billion (around $448 million) to promote its POS face-scan payment system across the country.