Theft of toilet paper, endemic in public toilets in China, is interrupted by the installation of facial recognition devices that ration the amounts assigned to each user.
When a group of old ladies take a break in a park in the south of Beijing, a synthetic voice welcomes them to the little corners: “welcome! Thank you for placing yourself in the facial recognition area “.
One by one, they place themselves obligingly inside a yellow square until their face appears in the center of a blue screen hung on the wall. After a few seconds, the machine distributes their due: 60 centimeters of paper, not one more.
The device made its appearance during the weekend in one of the public toilets of the Temple of Heaven, a park very popular with retired people who come for their dances and morning exercises. Or, in some cases, to stock up on toilet paper that could sometimes be seen coming out of the park in whole bags.
But we do not cheat with the robot distributor. If the same person turns up in front of the screen within nine minutes, it runs into a polite answer: “Please try again later.”
“This stops the fraudsters. That’s fine as long as there is enough paper for everyone, “says Pu Meilang, 68.
For years, park management has been looking for ways to get paper thieves, “says Lei Zhenshan, a Shoulian Zhineng company managing the facial recognition machine.
“The idea seemed a little ridiculous at first and then we found that the level of wastage was really high. So we decided to adopt this technological approach in order to rectify the behavior of people, “he told AFP.
The device, which costs more than 6000 yuan (CAN $ 1160), has already reduced paper losses by 70%, he assures.
“We are saving paper for the good of the country,” said Li Zengxiu, 58, leaving the toilet.
On social networks, some remain skeptical. “In two days, the device will have disappeared too,” prognostic a surfer.