Personalised Vending Machines for a More Intelligent Vending Experience

In June 2014, a mysterious vending machine appeared in Times Square, New York.

It featured a large red button on which was written “It’s So Miami”. When passers-by pushed this button, their picture was taken, and advanced algorithms were deployed to identify the perfect prize for this specific person.

Or so it seemed. This vending machine was actually set up to promote a “Miami Summer Deals” initiative. It was staffed by a hidden team who could see each passer-by. They picked, by hand, an appropriate prize for each person. Throughout the course of the day, delighted New Yorkers were presented with sunglasses, thongs, aftershave, perfume, and even flights to Miami.

It may have been a marketing stunt, but this got us thinking: could personalised vending machines be the future of vending?

What if vending machines were able to profile users with a combination of cameras, software, and databases? Or what if they were able to identify specific people through reading their retinas, Minority Report style?

The true implications of this idea are rather unnerving, as they suggest a world in which our every move is monitored, and our every idea anticipated. But this could result in a world where:

×          Vending machines are stocked with alcohol and tobacco, which are never distributed to anyone who’s not of legal age

×          Children are prevented from binging on sugary or salty snacks, and are instead compelled to choose healthier options

×          Those with strict dietary requirements would automatically be provided with wheat-free or low sodium products

×          Vending machines know exactly what you like, and immediately dispense your favourite snacks as soon as you approach them

What do you think? Would you be happy to live in a world in which vending machines know more about you than your mother does?