A payment app in China is adding beauty filters to its facial recognition system to make its users “look even prettier” when they pay with their face.
The move comes from Alipay, an online payment platform established by Alibaba Group, which announced Tuesday on social media platform Weibo that it would be adding a “beauty camera” to its Smile to Pay system.
The feature was reportedly created in response to a Sina Technology poll that found that over 60 percent of respondents thought they looked less attractive on the screens that publicly display their face when interacting with the automatic checkout system. Alipay will still process the before photos in the same way as usual, according to Quartz, but users will be able to see the filtered photo at checkout when they pay with their face, and this feature is also reportedly already available within the company’s mobile app system.
“I have noticed you guys think I made you look ugly,” Alipay wrote on Weibo, Quartz reported. “Alipay will roll out beautifying filters for all of its offline facial-recognition payment systems within a week’s time: be ware you’ll then look even better than in a beauty camera!”
It may seem excessive for an ephemeral interaction that lasts mere seconds and is likely only witnessed by the user, to cater to vanity. But selfie culture in China is massive, and the ability to technologically beautify oneself is a market unto itself. Billions of phones have beauty filter apps installed on them in the country, and Chinese company Meitu even manufactures smartphones that are designed to take attractive selfies, thanks to front-facing cameras that incorporate beautifying apps. That this desire would extend to momentary financial transactions may point to our screwed-up, self-admiring times, but it’s hardly shocking.
“Meitu is in the business of manufacturing a desire for perfection,” Wen Hua, the author of Buying Beauty, told South China Morning Post, “so that you feel its gaze everywhere and find yourself conforming to – and confirming – its standards.”