You may soon be able to shop without lifting a finger — literally. On Wednesday, Google announced the launch of Hands Free, an app that allows users to pay with voice alone. Although the app is currently only being piloted in the South Bay region of the San Francisco Bay area, you may soon be able to buy whatever your heart desires with four simple words: “I’ll pay with Google.” Depending on your shopping habits, this app will either add an extra layer of convenience and ease to your life, or it will make buying stuff too easy, and you’ll suddenly find yourself surrounded by a mountain of verbally-purchased stuff that you absolutely can’t live without (but that you also can’t afford). Technology is a wonderful, dangerous thing, my friends.
With the emergence of “digital wallet” apps from Apple, Samsung, and Android, smartphones have dramatically changed how many people buy things, eliminating the need to wrangle, or even have, cash and credit cards. This app, however, could take things a step further, and eliminate the need for, well... hands. Here’s how it works: The app uses Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS services to tell you when you’re close to a store that’s equipped to allow purchases using Hands Free. Once in the store, you find what you want to buy and tell the cashier “I’ll pay with Google.” To make sure you are who you say you are, the cashier will ask for your initials, and will check out the photo of yourself you’ve downloaded into the app.
Folks in South Bay can currently use the app at a select number of McDonald’s, Papa Johns, and local restaurants. The rest of us may have a long while to wait before we can start making voice-purchases. Pali Bhat, senior director of product management at Google, told Tech Crunch that the company is not yet looking to expand the app beyond the pilot stage. “Once we’ve made all the fine-tuning that potentially we get from the feedback from merchants and consumers, we then are going to start scaling it,” he said. “Until then our goal is not to have millions and millions of users adopt.”