Alibaba's $60 billion online financial services arm Ant Financial demonstrated new capabilities enabling shoppers engaging in virtual reality sessions to pay for purchases by nodding their heads, Reuters reports.
After nodding, the VR Pay service verifies the consumer's identity using account logins on connected devices or via voice print technology. Passwords are required to complete authentication, but the VR user can enter password text through head movements, touch or simply staring at a point on virtual display for longer than 1.5 seconds, according to Reuters.
The VR Pay technology was developed by Ant's F Lab incubator as part of an effort to connect VR gear and applications to the parent company's Alipay payments platform, which now has 450 million users worldwide.
Things seem to be going pretty well for Ant, which this week said it is putting off its IPO to continue ongoing business expansion. And why not, when Alipay is amassing users all over the world, finding new partners, acquiring its way into new markets and innovating new payment methods.
Ant has been very aggressive in exploring every possible way to allow people to pay for things. It has developed the so-called pay-by-selfie facial recognition technology and has invested in other kinds of biometric solutions, including eye-scanning, key to its recent acquisition of EyeVerify.
All of this work by Ant and other companies to explore the frontier of payments, and in particular where it intersects with biometrics, suggest a future in which we could find ourselves paying for merchandise using every conceivable gesture or body part (which… ick).
As for right now, Ant's latest development is well timed given that the virtual reality market appears ready for huge growth. While retailers like Best Buy are experimenting with new ways to get VR into the hands (and over the eyes) of consumers, it behooves payments players to figure out how to enable in-game and in-session payments in a way that's most convenient for VR users.