Japan has been ahead of the rest of the world in vending machine technology for years.
"They are so convenient, I wish I had one in my room," says an 18-year-old in Tokyo. She's talking about vending machines, and she's not the only one. Vending machines are hugely popular in Japan, with about one for every 50 people and 2.5 million units for drinks alone. That figure doesn't even include the ones that sell other products like cigarettes, toys, flowers, cold bananas, cooked meals, and just about anything else you can think of.
東京一名 18 歲少女說：『它們這麼方便，我真希望自己房裡也有一台。』她說的是販賣機，而且有這種想法的不只她一人。販賣機在日本非常普及，約每 50 人可以分配到一台，而且光是專賣飲料的販賣機就有 250 萬台。這個數據甚至不包括販售其他像是香菸、玩具、鮮花、冷凍香蕉、熟食，以及任何你想得到的物品的販賣機。
With so many variations, companies really have to be imaginative to make their vending machines stand out. Showing that they care, Coca-Cola made some that give out free drinks in case of an earthquake. Then there is an unusual model with a microphone inside to help scientists record the sounds of rare birds in a small remote village. The newest development in vending machine technology comes from a machine at a train station in Tokyo. It has a camera and software that figures out a shopper's age and sex. With that information, the machine guesses what the shopper wants to buy almost as though it were trying to read his or her mind. For example, one shopper reported that the vending machine offered her three different choices, with one being her favorite. She also said that it would come in handy when she couldn't make a decision. According to the company that operates the machine, consumers' pictures are deleted immediately, but general information about who is buying from the machine is gathered and used by the company. However, this doesn't seem to bother customers because they are so excited about the strange new machine. With this kind of technology, it seems anything is possible with vending machines.
有這麼多販賣機種類，販賣機公司勢必得發揮想像力，才能讓自家的機器脫穎而出。可口可樂公司為了表示關心大眾，特別推出一些販賣機，會在發生地震時免費供應飲料。另外還有一款內建麥克風的特別機種，幫助科學家在一座偏遠村落裡錄下稀有鳥類的叫聲。目前擁有最新科技的一款販賣機則位於東京火車站內。這台販賣機配備有攝影機和軟體，能辨別消費者的年齡和性別。利用這些資訊，機器能猜出消費者想買什麼東西，就彷彿能看出他們心裡在想什麼似的。舉例來說，一位消費者說這台販賣機提供她 3 個選購建議，其中一個恰好是她最喜歡的。她還說當自己無法決定要買什麼時，這項服務就非常好用。根據經營該販賣機的公司表示，消費者的照片會被立即刪除，但是關於是誰在這台販賣機買東西的一般性資料則會被收集起來，供該公司使用。然而，消費者對這點似乎不以為意，因為他們覺得這台新奇的機器非常有意思。有了這種科技，販賣機簡直無所不能。