Japan’s high-tech vending machine is smarter. But is it better?

Japan’s high-tech vending machine is smarter. But is it better?

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As you pass through train stations in Tokyo, you may stumble upon Acure vending machines with bright 47 inch digital screens. These Acure machines are a product of the JR East Water Business Co. Ltd [1], and they are anything but normal.

They use facial recognition technology to detect the age and sex of whoever is standing in front of them, and they recommend the product determined to be best suited for that person. When recommending a drink, Acure also considers the current temperature, the time of the day, and even the season. So it might serve up a steaming hot can of coffee on a cold winter morning, or an icy soda on a hot summer day.

The vending machine includes other interesting features such as filling in new beverages in place of sold out ones when a spot becomes available. It also stores demographic data of its users which can later be used to help with product development and sales. In fact, a new apple juice “Aomori-Ringo 100” (‘ringo’ means ‘apple’ in Japanese) through analyzing the accumulated data on Acure. The company expected fruit juice to be preferred by women, but they were surprised to find out that men also buy fruit juice in late afternoons to night time. The company carefully chose a package that would appeal to both sexes.

More than just a novelty

But are these smarter vending machines really any better than traditional ones? According to Acure they are indeed a big improvement, selling three times more than regular vending machines. So far the user demographic of Acure is about 63% men and 37% women.

Men in their 20s and 30s are the machine’s biggest fans, and Acure knows exactly when and what they buy. Typically they begin their mornings with a can of black coffee, usually moving on to a different kind of energy drink depending on the time of the day. RedBull sells more in the late afternoon to night time, for example.

The company is searching for other uses of it’s technology too. An Acure machine for general goods was placed in a newly opened mall just recently. These remotely controllable vending machines can be a life saver in times of crisis as well, as they can be instructed to give away all stored beverages in times of disaster.

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  1. A solely owned subsidiary of the East Japan Railway Company.  ↩