Fed up with the theft of toilet paper from public bathrooms, tourism authorities in China's capital have begun using facial recognition technology to limit how much paper a person can take. The unusual move—part of a "toilet revolution"—is another step in China's vast upgrading of public facilities. Bathrooms at tourist sites, notorious for their primitive conditions and nasty odors, are a special focus of the campaign, a response to a vast expansion in domestic travel and demands for better-quality facilities from a more affluent public, the AP reports. "We have entered a new era of public tourism," says researcher Zhan Dongmei. "The expectation of the public for the toilet is becoming higher."
At Beijing's 600-year-old Temple of Heaven, administrators recognized the need to stock the public bathrooms with toilet paper, a requirement for obtaining a top rating from the National Tourism Administration. But they needed a means of preventing patrons from stripping them bare for personal use—hence the introduction of new technology that dispenses just one 2-foot section of paper every nine minutes following a face scan. "People take away the paper mostly because they are worried they [won't be able to] find any when they want to use it the next time. But if we can provide it in every toilet, most people will not do it anymore," Zhan says. The "revolution" calls for at least 34,000 new public bathrooms to be constructed in Beijing this year. (Read more China stories.)