In a clever mix of technology and marketing, Kraft Foods has teamed up with Intel to create a vending machine, called the iSample, that can dispense free pudding samples to adults only; it’s intended target audience for its new product. The result is a machine currently in place at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. Patrons who approach the machine are scanned, and if deemed old enough, are urged to use their smart phone to type in or swipe a code that then allows the assumed grown-up to pick a flavor, which is then dropped down for them to grab and eat. All for free. If a kid tries to do the same, they are denied a free sample and asked to step aside so that a deserving adult can get a treat.
The vending machine doesn’t take a photograph, it simply scans a person’s face, using some type of optical sensor, processes the information it finds, such as the distance between the eyes, nose and ears, and then makes an age estimation that it uses to allow or deny a free treat.
The partnership between Kraft and Intel has apparently been ongoing for a couple of years as Kraft seeks new ways to grab the attention of customers and Intel works out real world ways to differentiate people from one another. As with most such ventures, the first such product, a similar scanning machine that could suggest an entire meal for someone based on gender, size and age, was deemed too ungainly. The new machine currently being used by passing adults at the aquarium is apparently just the right size and in addition to its technical abilities also employs a bit of humor, brushing children aside as if they were little more than pests.
The new vending machine also appears to be a glimpse of things to come, as other companies are most assuredly working on similar technology, all aimed at selling more products to a cooperative public. Thus, in addition to television, radio, animated billboards and Internet advertising, we will all likely soon be subjected to various machines studying our bodies and faces to discover clues about our gender, age, race, health and perhaps level of wealth based on our clothing, so that those that wish to sell us things can be more discriminating in their advertising. All thanks to both investments in technology and the willingness of the public to give up some bit of their privacy in exchange for the reward of a simple sweet treat.