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Google is killing its experimental Hands Free payment app

Google has announced that it’s shutting down Hands Free, its experimental payment app that allowed customers to pay for items simply by saying “I’ll pay with Google” to a cashier, on February 8th.

The app, which launched on iOS and Android in March last year, allowed users to enter in payment and photo information, and then used a combination of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and location services to identify if your phone was in a store. When paying, a cashier would be presented with a photo that the user had set up in an app to confirm the transaction.

When Hands Free was first announced, Google noted an intention to eventually reach the point where facial recognition-based shopping could be done entirely by computer-controlled systems, but it seems those plans are being shuttered as the app shuts down. That said, Google does note that it plans to “bring the best of the Hands Free technology to even more people and stores,” so we could see something similar show up in other products in the future.

Hands Free was meant to remove some of the pain points around shopping by streamlining the purchasing process. But despite Google’s best intentions, Hands Free never really scaled up in the same way Google’s more mainstream Android Pay platform has, instead only functioning for a small selection of McDonald’s and Papa John’s, and a few other local stores in the South Bay area.

But while Google’s plans for a truly seamless shopping experience seem to be on hold for now, others in the tech industry are just getting starting, with Amazon’s cashier-less Amazon Go grocery store — which functions on similar hands-free principles as Google’s app — set to launch sometime in early 2017.


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