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Chinese campus tests new approach to dining hall access

China’s Zhejiang University is giving students a new way to access meals at the campus canteen that’s moving away from the previous method of swiping in with student ID cards.

According to a Shine report, Zhejiang University the new, high-tech means of meal payment and tracking pairs diners with food trays and logs consumption at the table. Zhejiang students still follow the tried and true method of swiping their campus cards to pay for food in university canteens, but coinciding with a newly-opened campus dining hall the university wanted to test a cardless dining experience.

Students and teachers can now register online with their personal information, mobile phone number, and a campus card used for payment. But instead of presenting the campus card at the dining facility, the new program uses a facial recognition scanner to pair each diner with a chip-embedded food tray. Students can proceed with loading food items onto the tray from the buffet-style dining hall.

Each dish has a sensor that logs the price of the item, while the tables that the trays are placed on work as a scales. As students walk through the buffet area, the price of their meal is calculated and money is automatically deducted from their corresponding campus card account.

In addition to billing, once the meal is taken, the system provides a report with the total calories and proportion of protein, carbohydrates and fat that the student chose for that meal. The reports are sent directly to the student’s mobile device, with the idea being to encourage students to pursue a more balanced diet.

In addition to encouraging healthier eating, university officials believe the high-tech dining facility could improve overall efficiency. Still in a trial phase, the cutting-edge dining service is currently only available at the lunchtime window each day for students and employees at the university.

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