The video: A Japanese company has rolled out a beverage vending machine that uses facial-recognition software to determine a customer's age and gender and then recommends specific drinks for that customer based on market research. (Watch a clip below.) For instance, says a company representative, the machine might highlight a "canned coffee drink" for a man "since men tend to prefer these," while a woman in her 20s might be pointed toward something sweeter. Six of the contraptions are now in place, and early sales have been "triple that of regular vending machines." The manufacturer hopes to roll out some 500 more by early 2012.
The reaction: It's a "gimmick," says Jonathan Bender at The Pitch, but in our "video-game culture, vending machines need to evolve." The outstanding question, says Chris Morran at The Consumerist, is whether the machine's success so far is driven by "the novelty of the device or if people actually prefer to purchase drinks this way." Watch a video of the face-scanning machine in action: