In the future, robots will cruise the bars spewing out canned pickup lines like "Hey baby, buy you a drink?" and we'll wonder how society got to that point.
Well wonder no longer, the answer lies in the JR (Japan Railways) Shinagawa station where two "smart vending machines" are captivating commuters with some very advanced programming.
Each smart vending machine is fitted with a 47-inch touch panel display but behind the screen, sophisticated sensors determine (with 75 percent accuracy) a potential buyer's age and gender.
The machine then clicks & whirs (if it doesn't, it should), and suitable selections are highlighted on the screen with red badges: for example, sports drinks lke Pocari Sweat for young men and water or tea for the ladies. You can call the machines sexist if you like, but don't be too surprised if they rely with "Bite my shiny metal a$$!"
Anyway, check out this video of one of the smart vending machines in action:
The machines do more than just suggest drinks to potential buyers, however. They're programmed to display various ad messages based on the time, temperature or season. Occasionally a pair of big googly eyes will appear, along with text reading "I'm thirsty!". Unlike Futurama's Bender, JR's smart vending machines run on electricity, not alcohol.
If all this seems just a bit ominous, consider that JR East Water Business Co. can manage their smart machines through a centralized server... sounds uncomfortably like Frank Zappa's "Central Scrutinizer" to me. Another promising/worrisome note is that JR East Water Business Co. is planning to install up to 500 of the smart vending machines across Japan over the next couple of years. Word to Sarah Connor: fill up your water bottle before you leave the house. (via Japan Probe and The Examiner)