Vending machines have come a long way from their roots. From their simple beginning as a way to sell postcards in the late 1880s, vending machines now sell everything from a pack of gum to shiny new cars.
As the technology improves so does the ubiquitous vending machine. Tired of looking for coins to buy your drink? Vending machines may soon become cash-free machines with people paying for goods through credit and debit cards. Other alternative payment methods would include the use of smartphones that use wireless data sharing protocol known as near-field communication. Soon people will be paying with Google Wallet or other similar payment methods.
Vending machines will also use touchscreen technology to make buying goods so much more interactive and informational. Touchscreens can allow consumers to see the item they want with the added information about calorie content. Pepsi is using the touchscreen for its Social Vending System that allows users to give drinks to a friend by entering the recipient’s name and mobile number. Users can even record a video message to the recipient right at the vending machine. The gift can be redeemed at any Pepsi Social Vending system. In Japan vending machines can now recognise a consumer by their personalised avatar. Consumers can snap a photo of the QR code which will log them in the machine. Users can then pick an avatar that they can customise. The vending machine will recognise the customer the next time they log in and can even remember birthdays.
Perhaps the biggest change in current vending machines is the amount of specialisation a machine can provide. In Japan where there is one vending machine per 23 people, machines can sell products from neckties, to hot meals to pornography. There are vending machines for every product under the sun. Here’s a look at some of the weirdest vending machines around the world.
Tycoons can now buy gold bars via vending machines. Customers can pay with a credit card or a lot of cash for the bar of gold. The “Gold to Go” vending machine provides gold bars ranging from 1 gram to about half a pound.
Designed by Dutch company Springtime, the Bike Dispenser will allow customers to rent a bike. They can then ride the bike to any destination and drop it off at another vending machine.
Most vending machines just dispense small cash items but at the Mondrian South Beach in Miami, the vending machines spit out Corvettes and gowns by Jean Paul Gaultier. Upscale customers will need to pay with a black card as a computer screen will let you pick from numerous items likes Bentleys, gold cuff links and even a corner unit at the Mondrian residences.
In Japan the “Sub Marine Catcher” vending machine allows consumers to catch their own live lobster with a descending claw. Customers will have to bring their own rubber bands and bags for the lobster. And you’ll have to pay 100 yen to catch the lobster.
Vending machines for medical marijuana can be found in California. However you can’t just walk in and get your bag of marijuana for your personal stash. You need to be pre-approved by your doctor. You’ll get a card detailing your prescription. The machine will now dispense your medical marijuana
The Japanese aren’t the only ones selling live animals. The Chinese city of Nanjing has a vending machine that dispenses Shanghai Hairy Crabs. The machine stores the crabs in a refrigeration unit that keeps them at a temperature of 41 degrees Fahrenheit so that the crab enters a state of hibernation.