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Virtual reality, real money: Alibaba to enable VR shoppers to pay by nodding

Alibaba, often referred to as the Amazon.com of China, is working on a new payment method that will allow shoppers wearing virtual reality headsets to make payments without removing the devices. Called VR Pay, it will allow people to select items for purchase from virtual shopping malls simply by looking and nodding at them.

The new system is being developed by Ant Financial, which manages Alipay, China’s largest payment processor with over 450 million active users, according to Reuters.

“It was very boring to have to take off your goggles for payment,” said Lin Feng, who heads the project. “With this, you will never need to take out your phone.”

Related: Alibaba Claims to have Created the First ‘Internet Car’

It may seem like nodding at products on a virtual shelf would be a surefire way to accidentally buy a lot of things you didn’t mean to, but there’s an involved confirmation process in place. First, VR Pay needs to verify the user’s identity, which it can do via linked account logins on connected devices or through the use of voice recognition. Next, a password will still be required to authenticate payment. This can be input via touch, head movement, or by staring at a point on the virtual display for longer than one and a half seconds.

VR Pay isn’t the first innovative payment method to come from Alibaba and other retailers, who are constantly working to take advantage of the latest trends in online shopping. In 2015, Alibaba introduced a form of payment based on facial recognition called “pay with a selfie.” Amazon is also working on a selfie payment method, and offers voice recognition payments on its Amazon Echo device.

Earlier this year, MasterCard partnered with VR wearables company Wearality to work on its own VR shopping and payment system, according to VentureBeat. As VR continues to get less expensive and make inroads into the consumer space, we can expect to see more general-use applications for the technology in the future.