Microsoft Testing ‘Zero-Effort’ Mobile Payments

March 18, 2013

Microsoft has published a research paper detailing how it can leverage its Kinect platform—made famous as gaming technology—along with facial-recognition software to enable mobile payments without even requiring that users remove their devices from their pockets. The company calls the system Zero-Effort Payment and acknowledged in the paper that pairing the two technologies is essential to successful implementation.

“Our key observation is that no single identification technology is sufficient,” the paper’s author wrote, “but combining device detection and face recognition lets each mitigate the other’s shortcomings. Device detection can make quite accurate determinations about whose devices are nearby, since packet loss is rare. But, it cannot easily distinguish customers in different locations since signal strength is poorly correlated with location. Face recognition, on the other hand, can indicate exactly where faces are. But, it cannot determine who those faces belong to if it must choose among all registered customers rather than just those in wireless range. Together, they can provide better information than either alone to aid store employees in identifying customers.”

Microsoft said it has tested Zero-Effort Payment on a small scale in two company facilities. Across those deployments, 274 customers made more than 700 purchases and no one reported the wrong customer being billed.