You know those vending machines where all the food is packed between spirals that are supposed to move forward to drop whatever you want down the front of the machine to the slot at the bottom so that you can scrape your hand reaching in for the now-broken chips, except the bag sometimes doesn’t get that far, because it’s like playing a slot machine and sometimes you don’t win and the chips get stuck and you see the bag teetering on the precipice, but no matter how hard you bang on the window, the chips don’t fall where they may, and every other dollar bill you have is too wrinkled to be accepted, so you walk away doubly frustrated because not only didn’t you get your chips but you just know the next person who makes that selection is going to get your bag in addition to theirs, which just isn’t fair?
Well, now they’ve come up with a machine that can withhold your chips intentionally.
This new vending machine, currently called Luce X2 Touch TV (and soon to be dubbed “That Damned Machine”), uses facial recognition technology to “identify and greet a user, remember a person’s preferences and even refuse to vend a certain product based on a shopper’s age, medical record, dietary requirements or purchase history.”
So imagine, if you will, the typical unpaid legal intern feeling hungry at 1am, shuffling to the breakroom for a snack, and staring at the selections while the machine says, “Good evening, Dave. Working late again, huh? Might I suggest an alternative to your usual bag of pork rinds? They really don’t do anything for your breath, and I happen to know that the cute girl in intellectual property is working late, too.”
Maybe Dave will take the hint and switch to a pack of Life Savers, or maybe the poor guy, having been proofreading briefs for some 23 straight hours, will finally explode, attacking the Luce X2 Touch Brand vending machine with a Black & Decker Brand fire axe while shouting, “If I want a friggin’ bag of friggin’ fried pig skin in the middle of the friggin’ night, you damn well better vend it to me, you haughty piece of metal!” just as the cute girl from intellectual property is coming by to see if he wants to share a cab.
(“Haughty,” by the way, would be exactly the right word, since the Luce X2 is from England and presumably speaks with one of those holier-than-thou British accents while it is telling you what’s good for you.)
Of course, such a machine can also be downright insulting, especially if it has body shape recognition in addition to facial recognition. I mean, there’d be no way in hell I’d be getting anything out of it. “Really, Mark?” it would say, getting all judgmental in my face, “do you really need that pack of gummy bears? Why don’t you get a nice salad instead?”
Fortunately, if that particular vending machine area was equipped with the latest in dispensing technology, I would be able to do just that, thanks to the Farmer’s Fridge Salad Vending Machine.
From this kiosk, I can get a snack such as a High Protein Salad with organic spinach, chickpeas, Parmesan, local corn, local peas, organic quinoa, figs, broccoli, pumpkin seeds and lemon tahini dressing. It even comes in a convenient jar so that I have something to throw at the machine for trying to feed me quinoa.
The Farmer’s Fridge has five or so different salads as well as an array of delicious snacks such as fried rice that is exactly like you get at the Chinese Takeout place except for the fact that it isn’t fried. Oh, yeah, and there’s no rice in it. It’s called fried rice but they’re proud of the fact that it contains only cauliflower, local peas, carrots, garlic and egg whites.
(They really are proud. Their website even gloats: “We fooled you,” it says. “Our crunchy concoction has all that salty, sweet flavor with zero guilt.” I don’t know about the Chinese places in farm country, but the fried rice we get here in the Northeast isn’t crunchy…at least not until the leftovers have been sitting in my fridge for a couple of weeks.)
Anyway, this is certainly an alarming trend. Vending machines that can deny us unhealthy things, or only offer us good, fresh, healthy foods? What’s that all about? If you wanted healthy stuff you wouldn’t be getting lunch from a vending machine in the first place!
It’s a good thing one company recognizes that. That would be Burritobox, the machine that delivers fried chicken!
Just kidding. That would be silly. The Burritobox delivers hot, fresh burritos, cooked right there in the machine! Seriously! You can get steak and cheese burritos, chipotle chicken burritos, veggie fajita burritos, even breakfast burritos. According to the website, “Our unique cooking process means that your burrito is made just for you. Guacamole available? Yes? Sour cream? You bet. Even hot sauce for those ready to take their taste buds to the next level.”
The site doesn’t say what exactly the cooking method is, or how the machine manages to roll the burrito. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt by assuming they don’t have a small, illegal immigrant in each kiosk.
Now, I remember a time when it was a great thrill to go to these places in New York City called Horn & Hardart Automats. There were all these windows with food behind them, and you’d put a dime or nickel in the slot and the door would open and you’d take out the food which would be on an actual plate. If you looked through the window, you could see the people in the back room making the food to replace what was sold and putting it into the empty spaces.
The Automats were the Starbucks of their day. You could sit there all day with a newspaper and a cup of coffee, and many people did. Very much unlike Starbucks, the coffee was 5¢, so the people who spent their time there tended to be bums, not guys writing screenplays on their laptops. But for the rest of us, it was a place your dad took you to just so you could experience it, and then you said, “Okay, that tasted like any other cheese sandwich and why is that guy in the raincoat drooling?” and you probably never went back there again, which is why it’s a hell of a lot easier to find a Starbucks these days (19,767 locations) than an Automat (0 locations).
I think a burrito machine would have the same business plan. Sure, you might try a vending machine burrito once just for the novelty, but then I think you’d have to be pretty darned desperate…
…like if your first snack choice of pork rinds had been denied by an overly protective Britbot machine and you were left with a choice of machine-dispensed quinoa or machine-made burritos.
See you soon.