Apple may have just unveiled a trio of new iPhones, but Japan is well acquainted with a different sense of screen magic: the touchscreen vending machine. After the first vending machine was set up in Japan about 110 years ago, the country now boasts more than 5.5 million vending machines. It's a lot harder avoiding them than to not find one!
But the sheer numbers are not the only surprising thing about Japanese vending machines - their unique functions and rapid technological advancement are also amazing!
So, let's look at the newest vending machine which can only be seen in Japan!
LIVE JAPAN first visited Osaki Station in Tokyo to see the newest high-tech vending machines called “Innovation” from the Acure brand. It has been installed in around 20 locations, few of which are outside of Tokyo.
The machine has a sleek black design and a colorful touchscreen, like a giant tablet computer. It even has a time display and the weather report!
The Innovation machines do not take cash or coins. We got ready by downloading the Acure Pass app (available on Google Play and the iTunes store; if you don’t want to download an app, you can use a Suica or Pasmo smartcard). You can set up your preferred payment method in the app’s settings.
The machine itself is easy to use. Just open the app and select the drink that you want to buy. Then, open the QR code for that drink and scan it with the machine’s built-in blue scanner. The selected drink will be highlighted on the screen. Click on your item and it will pop out of the dispenser at the bottom. Neat, right?
With the new Acure Pass app, you can purchase drinks in advance and even gift a drink to your friend via LINE, Facebook, or Twitter. Also, customers can receive special promotions and offers when they use the app, which can be exchanged for free drinks.
Acure doesn’t plan to stop there.
We then visited JR East Water Business Co., Ltd, the owner of the brand Acure. Two members of the Innovation Vending Machine Project Team, Shunsuke Iijima and Rui Omoro, were there for us to tell the future prospect of Acure.
Since their establishment of Acure in August 2006, their mission is to provide the highest quality beverage products to customers by using the newest consumer methods. Now a total of seven styles of Acure vending machine are located in all major train stations in Tokyo and throughout the rest of the country.
The Naturacure vending machine sells drinks targeted to women, with healthier selections and smaller bottles designed to fit into purses. “Female customers think room temperature drinks are healthier,” Mr. Omoro told us. “Naturacure vending machines provide drinks catered to these requests.”
Found primarily in tourist areas, The Art Museum Acure machines showcase traditional Japanese artwork and culture that includes kabuki, Japanese dance, and sumo paintings. Aside from that, each machine holds a selection of local and international favorites, including green tea, Aomori Apple Juice, Aqua Water, and many rare beverages.
The Next Generation vending machines, another of Acure’s high-tech successes, uses a camera and facial recognition software to match customers with the best product. Depending on the customer’s demographics, Next Generation machines can recommend drinks that would best suit customers.
Acure is leading the way in vending machine innovation. Project Team hopes to expand on their newest Innovation machines to service foreign tourists when they arrive for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
So, if you’re planning to come out to Tokyo, download the Acure app and give one of their new machines a try! Using one of these advanced vending machines is one of those “only in Japan” moments that is easy to do and is a great memento of your trip.
The Rise of Japanese High-Tech Vending Machine
Vendo Glass Vending Machine（1955）／US-based Vendo Ltd
The classic Coca-Cola machine. In the modern era, people collect and refurbish these machines for their personal use.
Gum machine（1962）／ Glory Ltd
It is the first chewing gum vending machine built in Japan.
Juice Machine（1962）／ Sanden Holdings Corporation
A water connection to mix with juice concentrate is attached above the vending machine.
Hot and Cold Drink Machine（1972）／Sanden Holdings Corporation
The first machine in Japan to offer both hot and cold drinks.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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