Russian Voice Assistant Alice Now Pays for Food With Visa
Russians can now order and pay for food at restaurants with Visa credit cards by asking the Alice voice assistant. The new voice commands replace the physical card, offering contactless payments during the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis at a growing number of cafes and restaurants in Moscow. It’s part of the global trend of voice-based commerce, especially with more people interested in limiting physical interactions for health reasons.
The new system adds Visa to Alice’s capabilities on a smartphone or tablet. Visa cardholders with a Russian bank account can tell the voice assistant which of the 32 Moscow-area restaurants participating in the program so far they are at, and what they want to order. The voice assistant sends the order to the restaurant and uses the Visa card to pay. The customer then just walks up and picks up the food without waiting in line or dealing with a waiter. The completely contactless process is not common in Russia, according to Visa, and there is a general distrust of online payments in the country. But, the credit company sees voice assistants as a good way to build trust in the concept.
“We see the rapid development of voice assistants in Russia and in the world,” Visa’s Russian product department head Yuri Topunov said in a statement. “Today, the number of Russians who use voice assistants at least once a month to solve everyday tasks exceeds 50 million people, with 90% of them using voice services on their smartphones. This is primarily due to the convenience and safety of such solutions for consumers.”
Visa and Yandex are running the current network of restaurants in the program like a pilot, with plans to extend it if it is as popular as they hope. They have reason to be optimistic when looking at the global picture. Mastercard just launched a voice assistant system for several drive-thru restaurants built on voice AI developer SoundHound’s Houndify platform after some successful tests last year. And Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant can handle paying for gas at 11,500 Exxon and Mobil gas stations in the U.S. More banks are exploring the utility of voice assistants as a whole as well. U.S. Bank’s new voice assistant acts as a virtual bank teller, for instance, as does Bank of America’s Erica voice assistant. There are Russian rivals too, such as Tinkoff Bank, which recently added a bunch of new features to its Oleg voice assistant.