Face scanner to wipe out toilet-paper theft

This machine scans a toilet user's face before it dispenses toilet paper. The device's software remembers faces, and will not dispense paper to someone who has just visited recently.
This machine scans a toilet user's face before it dispenses toilet paper. The device's software remembers faces, and will not dispense paper to someone who has just visited recently.PHOTO: WEIBO ACCOUNT OF LEGAL DAILY

BEIJING • One of China's top tourist sites has rolled out facial-recognition technology at its lavatories in a bid to thwart toilet-paper thieves.

Visitors to the loos at Beijing's Temple of Heaven, a cluster of temples that are a Unesco World Heritage Site, must now go through any of the six facial-recognition machines installed there before they can get toilet paper, China's Legal Evening News said in a report on Sunday.

This is how it works: Each person stands in a designated spot where the machine scans his face.

When this is done, the machine will automatically dispense 60cm of toilet paper.

Last weekend, an employee was stationed at the toilets to explain and guide bewildered visitors on the use of the machines, which had been installed on Saturday.

Some tourists who spotted the machines were heard asking: "What is this for?"

Visitors to the loos at Beijing's Temple of Heaven... must now go through any of the six facial-recognition machines installed there before they can get toilet paper, China's Legal Evening News said in a report on Sunday.

But the machines created longer waiting times and queues, the Legal Evening News said. Many visitors were also unable to receive any toilet paper from the machines, an employee told the newspaper, forcing staff to provide hand-rolled toilet paper.

The Straits Times early this month cited the Beijing Evening News as saying that some visitors make multiple trips to the temples' toilets just to stash the paper in bags they take along.

Videos of visitors gleefully pulling off long rolls of toilet paper had gone viral online.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2017, with the headline 'Face scanner to wipe out toilet-paper theft'. Print Edition | Subscribe