It’s no secret that vending machines are taking over for in-the-flesh store clerks. The trend started with convenience-store goodies and now includes everything from iPods to acne medicine to gold bars. But there will always be those goods that can only be sold to people of a certain age. Leave it to technology to solve that quandary: a new vending machine scans your face to determine if you’re a kid or an adult, only dispensing its treat inside if it deems you old enough. The invention is ideal for age-controlled goods: alcohol, cigarettes, and even R-rated movies. But this vending machine is selling none of those. It’s selling pudding.
That’s right, Kraft has installed a facial-recognition sensor on its new Jell-O Temptations vending machine. It’s a kid-friendly product, but this one’s only for grownups. The machine’s camera scans your face when you walk up to it, measures the distance between your eyes, nose and ears, fits you into an age bracket (hopefully correctly) and dispenses the Jell-O if you’re old enough. Too young? You’ll be scared off with an alarm – a humorous one, that is – and a snarky message, “Sorry, kid. You’re too young to experience indulgence like this. Please step away so the adults can get their free treat.”
But there’s no malice behind this one – at least not on the surface. The vending machine, developed by Kraft and Intel, is an effort to rope adults into the kid-centric pudding world. Jell-O Temptations is being marketed as “the first Jell-O that’s just for adults,” after all.
The machine, known as iSample, is part of Kraft’s effort to create an entire shopping experience from a vending machine. Their overarching goal is to dispense an entire meal based on a person’s gender and demographic as judged by a vending machine. For testing purposes – and, presumably, maximum embarrassment for mischievous children – the machines are installed in high-traffic, family-friendly areas: Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium and New York’s South Street Seaport.
So what’s next for these intelligent vending machines? They plan to expand the camera’s sensing abilities. Jose Avalos, Intel’s retail director told USA Today, “We want to see if a person is smiling after they receive their sample.”