Quietly announced at last year’s I/O, Google is launching a pilot of its Hands Free payment system in the South Bay area of San Francisco. In the past, Square also experimented with a similar type of payment model that required limited user interaction. While Square’s attempt ultimately failed, Google’s scale and previous work with Android Pay might help.

Users can start using Hands Free by downloading the Android or iOS app and adding their name, initials, a picture of themselves, and a payment method. The app works by using Bluetooth Low Energy, Wi-Fi, and location services to detect if users are in a participating store. When it’s time to pay, users can tell the cashier, “I’ll pay with Google.” In turn, the cashier will ask for initials and confirm the user’s identity by using the previously added picture.

However, Google has even more ambitious plans for the future of mobile payments. They are running experiments with facial recognition to make the Hands Free process even faster. In select stores, Google is using a Hands Free camera to automatically confirm one’s identity. They note that for privacy reasons the images are immediately deleted.

Users living in South Bay can request an invite now by downloading the Android or iOS app. Google is rolling out the technology to a small number of McDonald’s, Papa John’s, and local eateries in the area. Hands Free testers will get $5 off their first Hands Free purchase at participating stores.


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About the Author

Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: abner@9to5g.com