Japan’s Quirky Vending Machines

Put some change in, thrust your face out and prepare for… a quick nicotine fix and an estimate of your wrinkles.

The Japanese have always had the world’s quirkiest vending machines – actually I’d go so far as to say the world’s quirkiest products in general. I did a slideshow on quirky vending machines for Fast Company last year; commonly dispensed products include toilet paper, beetles, porn and sex toys, umbrellas, fortunes, rice, and of course cigarettes and beer.

The country’s latest invention? A vending machine that uses face recognition technology to prevent underage smokers from buying automatically dispensed cigarettes. The BBC reports that a Japanese company called Fujitaka has developed a technology to count wrinkles and skin sags as a means by which to check a smoker’s age (the legal age to buy cigarettes in Japan is 20.)

Japan currently has a whopping 570,000 tobacco dispensing vending machines. While the system is yet to be approved, it reportedly gets the age identification right in nine out of ten cases – pretty good for a system that’s based on wrinkle counts. The remaining 10% will be sent to a “grey zone for baby-faced adults” where they will be asked to insert driving licenses or identification cards, according to the BBC.

“With face recognition, so long as you’ve got some change and you are an adult, you can buy cigarettes like before… The problem of minors borrowing identification cards to purchase cigarettes could be avoided as well,” said a company spokesman in a Reuters interview.