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Japanese Vending Machines Read Your Mind?

When an American looks at a soda machine, he or she typically knows what to expect: an assortment of sodas and fruit drinks that might include Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Sprite, iced tea, etc. Snack machine offerings are normally divided between “sweet” and “salty” contents: potato chips, pretzels candy bars, gum.

In Japan, vending machines and other forms of vending service have become a sort of art form. The average Japanese consumer can find coffee, rice, chargers for electronic vehicles, beauty supplies, and nearly every conceivable consumable item under the sun.

A new vending machine in Japan has taken a particularly high-tech route, scanning and analyzing the face of an individual who walks up, and then suggesting a drink to purchase.

Say What?

That’s right, Japan is producing vending machines with facial recognition cameras and software. The pop machine scans the face to determine key identifiers including gender, height, and girth. It then suggests a drink that the potential customer might like. The suggestions are based on demographic analysis: men might want canned coffee, while women may thirst for a bottle of green tea.

What Happens When the Glitter Fades?

The company that produces these pop machine wonders says that sales are through the roof; profit margins are stratospheric; and they’re generally a hit. However, the general consensus is that the long term sales data isn’t in yet. That means that nobody knows if customers will keep coming back to these face-scanning vending service wonders.

The Key Question

One factor, at the end of the day, separates a great product idea from a gimmick: does it solve a problem? These face-scanning vending machines are designed to mop up on a “key demographic” of persons who walk up to a vending machines: the ones who don’t know what they want yet. Does this solve a huge sales problem when it comes to vending machine sales?

Really, the question that might be asked in rebuttal is this: how many potential customers walk away from a vending machine because they can’t figure out what they want?

Whether these face scanning, computer driven wonders will change the “face” of pop machine sales everywhere is difficult to determine. The fact is, the vending service industry in America is a little more pedantic than Japan’s. Soda, water, candy, chips, sometimes coffee. You never know, though—what if that machine can help you figure out what you’re in the mood for?