Japanese vending machines are so advanced compare to any vending machines I saw in any other countries. The features and functions are very unique and overwhelming. They are evaluated over time effected by advancement of beverage containers and people’s needs.
Here is the small summary of its evolution I’ve seen and experienced on my life time:
70s: glass bottles with build in bottle opener on the machine
80s: machine with ‘win another can of drink’ was hugely popular. The machine usually have sounds and flashing LEDs to emphasise the gaming factor.
Hot and cold drinks on a machine.
90s: more items on a machine
00s: NFC payment on the machine started for mobile wallet payment, then become common by growth of SUICA/pasmo (public transport card) use.
Then 2010s. I think this is the one of the biggest revolution moment for vending machine history. Because, now, vending machines has screens and some intelligence. I was so excited to see and experience it on my trip to Tokyo.
So, the new vending machine has 47inch touch screen. No model bottles, no flashing buttons, it has clean bright surface on the machine. Because of the display, the vending machine changes the way of interact people in very exciting way.
1) Face recognition
There is a hidden camera capturing the face approaching the machine. Then machine guess the customer’s age and gender, then recommend appropriate beverages.
2) Can be a screen in public space
It shows full-screen image or advert when no one looks at the machine. It create different atmosphere at the station space. It can be hidden when it’s not needed and create a window like view in a busy area.
3) Bringing in seasons
This would be one of the marketing feature. The screen shows something seasonal, such as showing some Christmas contents during the Christmas time etc. Also create some recommendation based on temperature, such as a image of showing steamy hot drink during a winter and showing icy cold drink during a summer time.
The purchasing experience is interesting.
It shows the image of the selected bottle in full screen, then showing some animations, when machine disposes it. It’s full engaging large full-screen experience. Though, I didn’t feel comfortable to show what I chose to drink in the public space with such a big screen. It’s a bit embarresing, I thought.
Over, I like the new vending machine a lot.
It’s nice and support all the functions that vending machine needs.
It’s worked very well and easy to trust.
It never shows unavailable items.
It has simpler way to pay with NFC.
The flat surface looks clean and pleasant.
The contents can be flexible and there are so many new things can be done with it.
I think it is the big evaluational step for future vending machines.
And I am so excited about it.
Last year, it was only 2 testing machines in Tokyo.
Now, it placed in many places. (mainly placed inside JR stations and platforms)
It is nice to feel Japan is still leading the world of vending machine.