At Digital Signage World in Sydney yesterday, Intel were not only showing off their augmented reality display, they were also showing a vending machine of the future. If this is the future of vending machines, I hope Australia starts using them like Japan.
The vending machine on display was a proof of concept device created in conjunction with Japanese vending machine companies. It incorporates a large resistive touchscreen, an inbuilt camera and has the ability to connect to wireless networks over 3G, Wifi or Wimax.
When the vending machine's camera recognises that nobody is within a 10 foot radius, it uses the large digital display to showcase advertising. But if somebody was to enter a 3 foot proximity, the larger ad disappears, replaced by a touchscreen menu to purchase the contents of the machine. You can scroll through the products using the touchscreen, with dynamic backgrounds changing depending on what product is currently highlighted.
The demo unit then used a smart cashcard to make the necessary payment, before the drink was released.
But while touchscreens and cameras are all fun and exciting, there are a couple of other logical and impressive functions built in to these new vending machines. For a start, wireless connectivity allows companies to monitor them remotely, allowing contents to be refilled only when they're empty, rather than on a regular basis whether they are needed or not.
The other intelligent development is analytics. The camera in the vending machine uses face detection technology to determine sex and approximate age bracket of customers, which can be used to then appeal to advertisers hoping to reach certain demographics.
Apparently some of these vending machines are already available in Japan, but should be arriving in Australia in the not too distant future. Here's hoping that they arrive here in the thousands...