Japanese Vending Machine Uses Facial Recognition

A new Japanese canned drink vending machine uses facial recognition technology to "recommend" drinks based on the customer's age and gender. Sales have increased over those from regular vending machines.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And here's our last word in business today. Many companies try to find their way in the market directly to the ideal consumer. They use computer programs to recommend specific products to specific people. If you ever buy books online, you've seen this happen. Even as you shop for one book, Amazon will suggest others you might like. Now this kind of tailored marketing has gone to a new level in Japan. A vending machine doesn't even need to know what you like to buy. It just takes one look at you and offers what you supposedly want.

(Soundbite of vending machine)

INSKEEP: Sensors in the vending machine detect the person's age and gender. If a man walks up to the machine, it will show up in an image of canned coffee -since that's supposedly what most men want, canned coffee. If he looks older, the machine will suggest green tea. Young women will be shown an image of sweeter canned drinks.

We can only hope for possible refinements over time. Maybe if you seem a little dehydrated you get water. If you've got bags under the eyes you get Red Bull. Maybe the machine could even include a breathalyzer and offer some aspirin to those who are going to need it in the morning.

That's the business news on MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

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