Coca-Cola Equips Vending Machines With Kinects, Lets You Dance For Free Cokes

All it took for this vending machine to get humans to perform tricks was a Kinect device.

Advertising shticks have come a long way, especially for companies like Coca-Cola. In an effort to retain its position as the number 1 global brand, the company has recently equipped vending machines with webcams and Microsoft Kinect sensors.

The goal? To get you to shake your booty, shout and cheer, and show as much passion as possible for free Cokes.

A video of this machine in action in South Korea has gone viral, thanks in part to a boy band named 2PM helping to engage the audience into mimicking their moves:

On the surface, this may just look like a marketing gimmick in which Coke merely rips off all the dancing games that exist for the X-Box, but it’s the combination of technology here that is really the intriguing part.

Vending machines may not seem like a place for cutting edge technology, but that is changing and quickly. Last year, Pepsi created a Social Vending machine that allowed you to gift a soda to a friend and the machine would text them with a code to receive it. At the University of Texas, a robotic barista from Briggo was installed that serves up coffee drinks ordered on site or via smartphone. And it’s not just drinks — an Italian company has also created a vending machine that makes and bakes fresh pizza.

Considering the relatively low cost of a Kinect compared to a vending machine, it makes sense that a company would try to use the tech for its advantage.

Increasingly, Kinect sensors are being used in technologies aimed at pushing the boundaries, such as NAO robots to mimic human gestureshandheld scanners to make 3D models, and even Minority Report-like interfaces. But adding Kinect to a vending machine planted in a high traffic area opens up endless possibilities for interaction, assuming that people are interested in whatever is being promoted. Like the dance games though, the machine must assess the behaviors of the participants to gauge whether they deserve a free Coke. Though the AI involved in the Coke machine may not be that advanced, or even what is used in video games, the potential to make a much more sophisticated system is there.

For instance, imagine if the same system added facial recognition, similar to tech developed by Immersive Labs to create digital billboards that measure age and mood, just like Facebook is using. Vending machines could know a lot about you, like whether you just broke up with a girlfriend. In a few seconds, the machine could scan a passerby and display, “Don’t worry, Greg…things will look better tomorrow. If you can smile, you can have a free Coke.” It may seem like a privacy violation today, but if the guy is happier and he’s got something for free, his attitude about Coke would probably improve.

We are merely on the cusp of machines interacting with us, even in public places like airports or the mall. Whether its robots or vending machines, technology will make be reaching out to us to engage with it to change our attitudes, influence our actions, and ultimately to get out cash.

Whether this campaign is successful or not at keeping Coke at the forefront of brand awareness, the company has come a long way from its terrible PR attempt to promote New Formula Coke in 1985 using what was merely called “Singing Robot”:

David J. Hill
David J. Hill
David started writing for Singularity Hub in 2011 and served as editor-in-chief of the site from 2014 to 2017 and SU vice president of faculty, content, and curriculum from 2017 to 2019. His interests cover digital education, publishing, and media, but he'll always be a chemist at heart.
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