SAN FRANCISCO — Amazon has filed a patent to allow customers to pay by selfie — but only after they do something that proves they’re a real, three-dimensional person and not a photo, such as blinking or smiling.
The system described in the patent uses biometric facial recognition software to confirm that the human in the picture is eligible to make the transaction.
Instead of having to type in a code, the user could simply hold out their phone and snap a selfie.
The patent also seems to look forward to a day when users could just look Amazon’s digital assistant, Alexa, in the eye and be verified. It notes that other types of electronic devices beyond phones and tablets could also be used, including “personal data assistants.”
Alexa is currently available on the Amazon Echo, Dot and Dash, none of which include cameras, but that could change in the future.
The patent notes that the system would replace passwords, which when long are easy to forget and when short are easy to guess.
In place of things like the ubiquitous CAPTCHA number and letter codes often used to confirm a real person is behind a transaction, the system would ask the customer to perform an action such as smiling, blinking or winking “that cannot be replicated with a two-dimensional image,” the patent says.
That protects against some unscrupulous thief trying to buy a 12-pack of Fire tablets using someone else’s picture.
It would also be “fun for some users,” the patent says.
Amazon filed the patent on March 10. No word on when the technique might actually come into use.
Though the Seattle online retailer isn’t the only company that see possible gold in selfies. MasterCard last month announced a feature that will let its card holders pay with either a picture of their face or a fingerprint.