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Eyeing Lunch

Virginia Commonwealth University

Hungry students will find something new at Virginia Commonwealth University. They'll be able to pay for their meals with their eyes. 

With 5,000 meals served each day, Shafer Court is a busy place, and Stephen Barr – director of campus services at Virginia Commonwealth University says food service workers can’t always keep up.

It gets pretty crazy, pretty hectic.  The line will go down the stairs, and we’re just looking for a way to try to expedite that, and we’re just looking for a way to expedite that.  Get  them in, let them eat, and let them get out and go back to class.

They explored a number of automated systems that might speed things along:

We were looking at fingerprints, we were looking at palm scanners, and then we came across the iris cameras.  You don’t have to touch it, so that’s sanitary.  The other thing is it’s very fast.  It’s about  two seconds, which is about half the time it takes to swipe an ID, so we can get two people in for every one person that swipes.

The iris, it seems, is like a fingerprint – unique to each person, with 220 factors that are numerically coded, so each student is assigned a number that’s stored in a computer, linked to their campus account.  Enrollment begins today, and Barr figures the system will get mixed reviews.

“I think we’ll probably get a little bit of Oh wow, that’s cool.  Let me try it out.  We’re also going to get a little bit of No way.  This biometric stuff is a little scary.  I’m not going to mess with it, but over time I think people will see that it’s easy.  They don’t even have to get off the phone.  They don’t have to take off their glasses.  They look straight into it.  It takes their picture, and they just  keep on going.”

He then demonstrates the iris cam.

“Sorry – we cannot confirm your identity.”

You do have to register – something Barr had not yet done, but at Georgia Southern and George Mason Universities, where the technology is already in use more than 90% of students signed up.

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