Google wants diners to pay for their restaurant meals with their faces

Google would love it if your guests could walk in and out of your establishment, order their food and pay for it -- all while never taking their wallet out of their pockets.

The tech giant rolled out its "Hands Free" payment feature to select restaurants in the Bay Area. The service allows customers with the app to order, eat and pay by saying "I'll pay with Google."

Cashiers simply ask for the guest's initials and double-check the guest's uploaded photo. If that checks out, the payment goes through. A receipt is then emailed to the guest. The guest needs to have their phone on them, of course, but it can remain in their pockets.

We're just imagining that the Hands Free photo will be the new driver's license photo.

Google Hands Free isn't the only wallet-less payment option out there, of course. PayPal has a hands-free option, too, and Square experimented with hands-free payment in 2011 before abandoning the project.

Investors Business Daily ran a story in which the author, Max Cherney, test drove Hands Free from a consumer's POV. Max was impressed by the technology, saying it was smooth and easy to use.

My order was small and the test limited, but it’s clear that the implications could be far-reaching if consumers take to the idea. If Hands Free were available widely, I would certainly use it — paying with just your voice is incredibly easy (and cool, too).

At its core, Hands Free takes a swing at a big issue in payments (and e-commerce in general): how to make checkout as frictionless as possible.
— Max Cherney, writer, Investors

While the thought of being able to walk into a location, get your goods and take off quickly sounds wonderful, not everyone is on-board with the "hands free" payment idea. According to Leo Sun of The Motley Fool, Google's going to run into a few problems:

That’s a clever idea, but it’s also deeply flawed. If retailers weren’t willing to install Bluetooth beacons for PayPal, it’s highly doubtful that they’ll install beacons or overhaul their POS systems for Google. According to Engadget, Google has also considered asking retailers to install cameras which run facial recognition software on customers — an idea which could raise serious privacy concerns.
— Leo Sun, writer, Motley Fool

We can also just imagine the juggling that would happen when a party of six wants to split the chest and each pay with Google, but maybe Google can iron that out. People are already carrying less cash on them than they have in the past and electronic payments have become much more mainstream. Hands-free payment might be that next evolution.