Google's Hands Free system lets you pay for items just by saying your initials

By midian182
Mar 3, 2016
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  1. If you’ve ever wanted to pay for an item without having to rummage around in your pockets for some loose change, your wallet, or even your smartphone, then Google is piloting a system that’s just for you: Hands Free.

    First revealed during its I/O 2015 conference last year, Hands Free uses Bluetooth low energy, location services, Wi-Fi, and other sensors to detect when you’re near a participating store. When you want to pay, simply tell the cashier “I’ll pay with Google,” and they’ll ask for your initials and use the photo you added to your Hands Free profile to check your identity. Payment is then taken from the credit or debit card linked to the account.

    “When you think about a user, in a bunch of situations, the experience is quite crummy right now, it’s quite clunky,” Google senior director of product management, Pali Bhat, wrote in a blog post . “You don’t want your phone in the way, your wallet in the way, you don’t want your cash in the way. These are inconveniences that happen multiple times a day.”

    The system is available now for Android and iOS, but it’s still “in the early stages” of development and can only be used in a small number of McDonalds, Papa John’s, and other local eateries in San Francisco’s South Bay area. For added security, instant notifications of payments made using the system are delivered to the user’s phone.

    In some outlets, Google is experimenting with using in-store cameras to automatically confirm a user’s identity based on their Hands Free profile, so all customers need to do is confirm their initials to the cashier when buying an item. While this does sound a bit Orwellian, Google has assured people that the images captured by the camera are deleted immediately, can’t be accessed by the store, and aren’t sent to or saved on the company’s servers.

    Google says the feature will work with devices that go all the way back to Android Jellybean v4.2 and the iPhone 4s.

    Early adopters of the system will get a $5 discount on their first purchase. To find out more, check out this site or watch the video below.

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