Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Weirdo Vending Machines

I've always had a fascination with vending machines as a child. Whether they were the little red ones that took quarters and dispensed gumballs, or even the modern day snack I watch the swirly metal thingy spin and release my soon-to-be-savored bag of goodies, I'm completely enamored with the entire process. Oh, and don't get me started with those cool soda machines with the robotic arms. I am transfixed watching that thing in motion.

But recently, there's been a new wave in vending technology, and some of them are cool while others are pretty controversial. All of them have one thing in common: they are all very weird.

No pudding fo' you!
Kraft Food's Discrimination Machine. My younger sister alerted me to this one (and inspired this post). We all love samples, but it costs the manufacturer a lot of money - and there's no guarantee the sample will go to the desired target consumer. But this new machine scans your face and can decide in seconds whether you're a child or an adult. If you're an adult it will say: "Sorry kid, you're too young to experience an indulgence like this. Please step away so the adults can get their free treat."

But if the machine decides you're an adult, it will immediately dispense the new Temptations Jell-O, which is obviously being marketed to adults. This discriminating machine rolled out in Chicago at the Shedd Aquarium before Christmas, and when my 27 year-old sister gave it a try, it scanned her and refused to give up the sample.

So this machine thinks Asians are children! Yeah, we look young, but damnit, we want our free pudding.

Swap-o-Matic. This thing has me intrigued. It's a vending machine that allows you to swap whatever item you have for something else inside the machine. You enter you email address, and it gives you three credits. And you can earn credits by "donating" things to this machine. To swap, you simply exchange your credits for whatever is being offered in the machine's little windows.

The Swap-o-Matic is currently at the Ample Hills Creamery in Brooklyn, NY. And if you go to the website, you can find out what the machine is offering RIGHT NOW. I just checked the site, and you can choose between a brand new candy cane, a 3 month onesie, condoms, and a spoon. Genius!

Morning After. We've all seen those vending machines that offer ibuprofen, Tylenol, and other over the counter meds. But how about contraception? As if the Morning After Pill wasn't controversial enough! Students at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania can give this vending machine $25, and in return, it will dispense the contraceptive also known as Plan B.

The machine has been available on campus for TWO YEARS now, but has just recently started getting some press. We'll see how this one pans out, as it is illegal to offer this contraceptive to anyone under 17. Everyone at this small school is older than 17, but as soon as one does enroll, I'm curious to see if they will have to remove the machine.

Pot Box. No, it's not Redbox. This machine dispenses pot! Er, medical marijuana. You'll find this vending machine in California (duh). To receive your helpful herb, just slide your prepaid/registered card. And the computer will scan your fingerprint. You choose your cannabis, the amount, and maybe any other accessories you might need.

Incidentally, a standard snack machine offering Doritos, Cheese Puffs, Pizza Combos, and Funyons sits right next to it.


Kelley said...

A pot box! haha. where else but California! Very interesting post :)

Matthew MacNish said...

This is funny, but I work for a Japanese company, and they have some facial recognition software they showed us last year, and it always thought all the Asian people were younger.

Emily R. King said...

Okay, the Swap-o-Matic is very cool. If I saw one, I'd use it just to say I did. It's amazing what people will spend money on!

MaryAnn Pope said...

Wow, all of those are hilarious. I have to say the free sample one is just cruel. Not only is it discriminating, but kids love free samples.

Thanks for sharing. I never knew vending machines could be so much fun.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

I have a love/hate relationship with vending machines. They are used to save money in the long run because an employee is too expensive. I know that this is capitalism at work (I'm not very capitalist...I do lean more toward socialism). I would prefer a customer service experience with a real person who is getting paid a decent wage to interact with me and hand me the things that I am spending money on. I know! I know! Impractical and will never happen. But that doesn't make me stop wishing it were so. I just don't quite like living in a world filled with machines.

Jay Noel said...

Kelley: Right, I know. Only in the C-A.

Matthew: You'd think they'd program it to adjust for us Asian folk!

Emily: ME TOO! I wanna try it now.

MaryAnn: It's very cruel to the youngsters.

Michael: At my local Sam's Wholesale or Costco, I can still get that personal service - although it's outsourced now!

Christine Rains said...

Wow. They have everything in vending machines these days. That Swap-o-matic is a cool idea if it can be used properly.

Anonymous said... people in the States have nifty stuff.

I'm just wondering what would stop a 16 year old from venturing onto the campus to use the Morning After machine. Does it scan ID? I mean it's nut like you get carded walking across a campus.

T.D. McFrost said...

I love vending machines too! I remember using sticking my hand up the shoot to steal the Milky Ways from the dispenser. I don't think I've ever paid for a snack from a vending machine. HAHA.

Nice to meet you Jay. I'm a campaigner just like you.

Dafeenah said...

I"m speechless. The world just gets weirder and weirder with each rotation. On a side note though your sister should feel flattered that she looks so young. When she gets my age, she'll be happy for days like that lol.

Jay Noel said...

Christine: I like the idea of reuse/recycle. But I think some people are putting some pretty lame stuff in there.

Riann: You have to enter the campus medical building, and have to show a school I.D. to get past the gatekeeper there. But I can't help but think someone under 17 WILL end up on campus someday.

T.D. I did that in college, but one machine I had to use a hanger. I did it more for the fun and challenge of it all, but getting the bag of M&Ms was well worth it.

Jay Noel said...

Dafeenah: It must be an Asian thing! I really don't mind that people think I'm in my early 30s. Not at all. But darnit, I wants 'me pudding.

Milo James Fowler said...

Holy crap, you saved the best (?) one for last. I'm a California native, but I've yet to see one of those!

alberta ross said...

Not sure we have anything as wierd as those in UK - very strange beasties - have dropped in to say hi to a fellow campaigner

Super Happy Jen said...

Why is it illegal to sell contraceptive to anyone under 17? Seems backward to me!

I'm campaigning with you!

Jay Noel said...

Milo: Hey, if you find one, take a picture for me, would ya? Last I heard, one of these machines was somewhere in San Benito County.

Alberta: So nice to meet you! We love buying stuff from machines here in the States.

Jen: I think because there are maybe some health issues as well (complications). Thanks for stopping by!

Rusty Webb said...

Asians look like kids? I was privy to an industry paper that was released regarding those early touch less dispensers ( for soap, towels, etc.) where many of those machines didn't work with particular skin pigmentations, aka, non white people.

I bet a similar thing is going on with the jello dispenser. Sometimes companies don't test things like that with a very diverse sample set.

Rek said...

Damn cool ones, the first one I literally tripped over. Maybe your sister aught to get some wrinkle make up and clear the scan test. Thanks for visiting and good luck with the challenge.

Sylvia van Bruggen said...

LOL I love those! :)

zooming past on my campaign trail :) Fellow scifi writer!

Jay Noel said...

Rusty: It actually scans the person's face, taking in its topography and the distance between all the parts of the human face. If the "structure" of the face is smaller, it makes the determination that it's a child. And many Asians, like my sister, have smaller structured faces.

Rek: Or maybe a Halloween mask! Good idea.

Sylvia: So nice to meet you!

The Desert Rocks said...

This is hilarious. Discriminating machines, medical marijuana machines and machines that dispense onsies--clean ones I hope. Thanks for the smiles. I love the Cappuccino ones that have all the options for cream, sugar and stuff. Very fun.

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