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Vending Machines in Japan: The Next Marketing Tool?

You are rushing to get your train but want to grab a drink before getting on. Next thing you will probably do is heading to the “kiosk” or the vending machines. In the Netherlands, for a small amount we can easily get a drink or a candy bar from the vending machines at the stations. However, in Japan, the vending machine is much more than that.

Vending Machines in Japan
At first glance, the vending machines are not that different than the ones we are used to. You put coins in the machines and you will get the product that you have selected. However, what makes them remarkable is that there are a bunch of them in Japan. It is estimated that there is about 5.52 million vending machines in Japan, which is even more than the total population of New Zealand (Jnto, 2015).
The vending machines in Japan also include bizarre contents which makes it unique: hot meals, fresh lettuce, cup noodles, flowers, umbrellas and even used underwear. You name it, they have it!

Next-generation vending machines
Vending machines has been already for over 50 years in Japan. However, technology is the key behind that keeps it evolving. For instance, there are vending machines with solar panels and touch panels that can sense the demographic of the customer. This allows the machine to suggest a drink on the display (Ryall, 2010). This is just a small example as there are tons of new features that could be added by companies to make a better user experience.
Recently, the company Kirin even implemented a selfie feature in their vending machine. The vending machine is fitted with a large LCD display and camera. The idea is that you can take a free selfie and share it with your friends through Line, a popular smartphone-messaging app in Japan. The service will be only offered free for those who buy a drink (Ashcraft, 2015). This is definitely a fun and exciting experience for customers. However, in my opinion there are lots of implications and potential in this Selfie Vending Machine. There could be branded backgrounds and localized digital content right there in images with you. Or when the Vending machine is not in use, the display can also show advertisements for products.

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Japan is famous for its vending machines. However, it is not just the sheer number that exists in the country what makes it fascinating, but how they make these machines their own in a unique way. In combination of Technology, they keep improving their vending machines and create a better user experience for customers. There is huge potential in these vending machines and seems to unlock new ways of branding. So what do you think? Would we be able to improve our vending machines like the ones in Japan?

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References
Ashcraft, B. (2015) ‘Japanese Vending Machines Now Taking Selfies’, http://www.kotaku.com.au/2015/10/japanese-vending-machines-now-taking-selfies/, October 8, 2015.

JNTO(2015) ‘Vending Machines’ , http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/indepth/cultural/hj/vendingmachines.html, 2015.

Ryall, J. (2010) ‘Japanese vending machine tells you what you should drink’,  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/8136743/Japanese-vending-machine-tells-you-what-you-should-drink.html, November 16, 2010.

Next level of gesture based interface: Ultrahaptics, the new tactical interface

Have you ever imagined how things would be in the future based on Sci-fi movies? Take a look at this short clip from the movie Minority Report of Tom Cruise (2002).


In this movie clip, gesture-based computing was shown. Back in the days, we would have never thought that swiping gestures could make an interaction with a system. Recently, researchers have even developed a new technology called Ultrahaptics. This takes the gesture based interface to another level.

What is Ultrahaptics?
Ultrahaptics is a device that makes invisible objects in mid-air that you can touch and manipulate. The device is using ultrasound that reflects air pressure waves off a user’s hand. This way, it will create the illusion that you are actually feeling objects or let you move around an object on the screen (Ultrahaptics, 2015). A fascinating thing about the technology is that it does not require the user to wear any gear or equipment to be able to use the interface (like in the movie Minority Report). The technology just uses the combination of hardware and the accompany software (Ackerman, 2015).

A useful technological development?   
The possibilities for such interface are endless. It could provide real-time tactile feedback while watching a movie or playing a game. It also could change the way we shop online and eliminate the struggles we are facing. For instance, making it possible to feel fabrics and avoid the need to visit the real store. Perhaps one day couples could even send each other sensations from afar and long distance relationship is not something to be considered anymore.
Recently, Ultrahaptics is already working with Jaguar Land Rover for a mid-air touch system to be implemented into the infotainment screen. It is supposed to increase the speed and efficiency of the interaction between the driver and the screen. As this will reduce the driver distraction by minimizing the amount of time the driver’s eyes are on the screen, it will help with increasing driver safety (Techspark, 2015).

Due to the rapid technological development, techs in futuristic movies that we always imagine could be applied in everyday scenarios. In my opinion, it will be very interesting technology to keep an eye on it. It has great potential like many developmental technologies, but whether we will actually see it often in future systems is still to be determined.

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References

Ackerman, E. (2015) ‘CES 2015: Ultrahaptics’ Ultrasonic Tactile Display for Virtual Controls’ http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/consumer-electronics/gadgets/ces-2015-hands-on-with-ultrahaptics-ultrasonic-tactile-display , 8 January 2015

Techspark (2015) ‘Ultrahapics to provide mid-air haptic touch system for Jaguar Land rovers’, http://techspark.co/ultrahaptics-to-provide-mid-air-haptic-touch-system-for-jaguar-land-rovers/ , 30 September 2015

Ultrahaptics (2015) http://ultrahaptics.com/, 2015