No one knew what to make of the gargantuan vending machines with 47-inch touchscreen panels that we spotted in Tokyo back in August. Now that some time's gone by, information's coming in and the benefits are becoming more clear. The machine, by Roppongi-based Design Studio S, is more than just a gimmicky touchscreen and practically bristles with design intelligence.
First off, the "smart" machine only shows images of drinks it actually has in stock, to avoid any aesthetically-offensive "SOLD OUT" badges. (Ah, Japan.) Secondly, the dispensing slot is placed in a higher position than on regular machines, so that Tokyo's population of "Office Ladies" in skirts don't have to crouch down in an unladylike way to access the product. Third, you can buy drinks by pointing your cell phone at the machine, though this perhaps has more to do with Japan's intelligent embrace of technology rather than the design of the machine.
But where the real brilliance comes in is with the onboard camera. The machine determines your gender and estimates your age and suggests demographically popular drinks. More importantly, after you purchase your drink, the machine has now collected some actionable data very important to drink suppliers (without capturing any personal information). For example:
- Primary customers are men in their 20s and 30s
- 63% men, 37% women
- Men in their 30s outnumber men in their 20s that use the vending machines
- Men in their 30s start the day with canned black coffee;
- Energy drinks purchased by men in their 30s are Lipovitan D in the morning, and Oronamin C and Red Bull in the evening to night;
- Mineral water and Pocari Sweat are bought most by men in their 30s after midnight
- It used to be thought that juices were mostly bought by women, but the Shinagawa vending machines sold way more juices than expected to men in the late evenings and at night
- JR East Water Business introduced the Aomori Ringo 100 on the 16th, with a reworked label design that appeals more to men than their initial design
Some other interesting stats are that the machines are selling three times more drinks than regular vending machines, and "there are regularly crowds (and lines) in front of the vending machines, waiting for an opportunity to interact with them."
Check it out:
Edit: Woops, the video has been rendered unembeddable. You can check it out by clicking here.