British company DataSparQ has developed the A.I Bar, which has been on trial in London's 5cc Harrild & Sons bar.
The A.I Bar uses facial recognition to put punters in an "intelligent queue", designed to eliminate queue jumping and help speed up serving times. The technology can also speed up ID checks.
According to DataSparQ, the technology is powered by machine learning and works by displaying a live video of everyone queuing at the bar on a public screen above it. Each person in the queue will have a number appear above their head that represents where they are in the queue.
On the right-hand side of the live video feed, there is a column with each customer's face, along with their estimated wait time. If the technology considers them to look younger than 25, there will also be a note to tell them to get their ID ready.
From the bar tender's side, an iPad tells them who to serve next and whether to ask for ID. They can mark a person as completed once they have been served.
Additional features are also being developed, including the ability for customers to re-order drinks while in the queue, reacting to hand signals if there are changes, as well as FaceTab, which will add people to a bar tab and only allow certain faces to order against the tab.
While a very cool idea, there are of course some privacy concerns - you could easily see how this sort of face-recognition technology could be used to identify and track people. Some might say that's a good thing, although CCTV in bars is nothing new. However DataSparQ says images from the live stream aren't stored.
The snapshot of the face that appears on the right side of the feed is stored locally and said to be deleted at the end of each session, which the company assumes will be at the end of the night. Users can also ask for their image to be deleted at any time by asking the bar tender.
There are also plans to have clear signs in bars that adopt the A.I Bar technology, showing the area in the bar where the A.I Bar queue zone is in place. Users will therefore be able to avoid being captured by the camera by staying out of the zone if they wish to be in the bar but not be part of the A.I Bar queueing system.
It's certainly an interesting solution to a common Friday night problem.