Unilever has created a new vending machine for ice cream that will provide its tasty product for free if the customer smiles. And if the customer agrees to have his happy mug displayed on Facebook, twitter and youtube. Via 3G, you can also share it yourself to various social networking sites.
Unilever gathered a team of experts to put together the hardware and software for 21st century vending; face recognition, proximity sensors and smile detectors are all at work. Smile happily at this smile-based ice cream vending video.
(Unilever smile-based ice cream vending machine)
"We can actually force the person to smile," said Michael Leonard, director of digital merchandising for SapientNitro, the vendor that created the machines for Unilever. Force? "Sure. They don't get the ice cream if they don't smile."
When fully deployed, the machines will be vending for cash and "randomly selected people" will be offered the opportunity to smile broadly for their free treat, Leonard said. "We haven't actually decided that number. It might be one of out of 10, one out of 20. We'll be doing further market tests to figure out what the optimal number will be."
In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams tells us about the Nutri-Matic, which also makes an assessment of its user prior to dispensing foodstuffs:
He had found a Nutri-Matic machine which had provided him with a plastic cup filled with a liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. The way it functioned was very interesting. When the Drink button was pressed it made an instant but highly detailed examination of the subject's taste buds, a spectroscopic examination of the subject's metabolism and then sent tiny experimental signals down the neural pathways to the taste centers of the subject's brain to see what was likely to go down well.
(Read more about Douglas Adam's Nutri-Matic)
As it turns out, it doesn't take a corporate team of people to create something like this; just one determined artist. And this machine gives you ice cream when you feel bad - not when you manufacture a smile. Read about Dr. Whippy, created by Demitrios Kargotis in 2007 (see also this Dr. Whippy video).