photo via flickr
in a train station, shopping mall or office building, one can’t help but notice the ubiquity of vending
machines. boxes dispensing everything from chewing gum to hot meals have become an integral part
of contemporary consumption.
while vending machines seem rather new, their history dates back to the first century A.D. the greek
engineer hero of alexandria is said to have created a coin-operated machine for dispensing holy water
in egyptian temples. this early example was so advanced that its mechanical design was used until the
introduction of electrical machines during the industrial revolution. during this period in the 19th century,
vending machines were becoming much more prevalent, selling things like postcards and books.
the machines made their way to north america around the same time. it was in new york that the first
gum dispensing machine was invented. from this period on the vending machine became an integral
part of urban life around the world. machines sold everything from cigarettes to stamps and even hot
food in later years.
vending machines have quickly grown to become a multi-billion dollar industry. vending machines are
also continually updating with the latest technology. machines are now being equipped with wireless
communication systems to monitor activity and precisely track inventory. new energy technology is also
making its way to vending machines in the form of hydrogen fuel-cell machines that run off the grid.
while the newest vending machine technology is interesting, the giant selection of goods being sold
inside the machines is even more intriguing. new products are being sold in vending machines every
year and innovation is constant. form fresh pizza in the US to strange trinkets in japan, there is no
shortage of things vending machines can sell. in this article, we will take a look at some of the most
unusual and innovative vending machines from around the world.
photo by wootang01
japanese vending machines
we couldn’t tell you about vending machines without mentioning their
impact on japanese culture.
more than casual users of vending machines,
the japanese have embraced the instant gratification of the
like no other country in the world. japan also has some of the
strangest machines you will see
anywhere. from umbrellas to full meals,
almost everything sold in japan can be found it a vending
isn’t necessarily true, but it seems like it).
photo: torin boyd/polaris, for the new york times
vending machine camouflage
while it doesn’t dispense anything, this vending machine camouflage
demonstrates the impact of the
vending machine in japanese culture.
experimental clothing designer aya tsukiok created the design as
of commentary on security in the urban environment. the plain skirt
transforms into a fully sized
vending machine illusion, allowing the
user to blend into a typical japanese street scene.
photo via flickr
while it may look like this vending machine is selling smart cars, it
actually dispenses brochures about
the car. the machine was the idea of
a smart car dealer in shibuya, japan. the machine gives customers the
option of a coupe or cabrio smart car and states the car’s actual
value, but it doesn’t accept money.
perhaps in the future these
machines will actually sell cars, but for know it remains a marketing
photo via flickr
eggs machine photo by joshberglund19
lobster and eggs
freshness is key for vending machines selling food goods. however these
machines take this a little too far, offering live lobsters and fresh
eggs respectively. both spotted in japan, these machines are not
something you will find in your office break room. the lobster machine
is also an arcade game because it requires users to pick their lobster
up using a joystick-controlled claw.
ideas for sale
rather than selling a product, jake bronstein developed a vending
machine that would dispense ideas.
after buying an old vending machine
from the internet, bronstein filled it with small capsules each with
fun thing to do in the city, a map with directions on how to get there
and a small toy. he placed the
machine in a variety of spots in new
york and captured people’s reactions.
luxury vending machine by mari balestrazzi
opening this past december in miami’s mondrian hotel designed by marcel
wanders is this luxury vending
machine by mari balestrazzi. the machine
is located in the hotel’s lobby as a contemporary version of the
shop. however this machines sell more than coffee mugs and key chains.
some of the items for sale
include designer gowns, luxury homes and
even cars. a touch screen provides information on each item
dispensed in the form of small vouchers which are redeemable at the
front desk. larger items like
cars require a non-refundable 1,500 USD
deposit to take a test drive.
samsung touch screen
soft drinks are perhaps the most common product sold in vending
machines. despite this the design of
most of these machines hasn’t
changed much over time. earlier this year at the 2009 CES in las vegas,
samsung unveiled the new ‘uvending’ touch screen vending machine for
coca-cola. the machine features
slick graphics that can display ads and
information about the products. the screen also allows users to
purchases using debit and credit cards using the screen as a keyboard.
the machine is also
networked with wi-fi to allow owners to monitor
their stock and protect it from vandalism via its built-in
while it is quite normal to spot a cigarette vending machine in a
number of countries, a marijuana
dispenser is quite rare. this vending
machine is the first of its kind and was installed last year in los
california where medical marijuana is legal. the machine is
well-protected by security guards and requires
fingerprint identification and a pre-paid credit card to buy the drugs.
the machines are
designed for sufferers of medical conditions such as
glaucoma and cancer who have been given
prescriptions for the drug by
passive aggressive anger release machine
created by the artists yarisal and kublitz this unique vending machine
dispenses a variety of plates and
cups. however these ceramic and glass
piece aren’t for eating off because after you buy an item it drops
the bottom of the machine and shatters. the idea behind the machine is
to allow people to relieve their
stress through the breaking of the
the ‘u*tique’ would best be described as a luxury vending machine; its
designer russell greenberg was
asked to create the ferrari of vending
machines. the machine was first put to use this past february and
carries a curated selection of 50 exclusive products. the company
explains that the items in the machine
have all been hand picked by a
group of international trend hunters. the machine features a touch
panel that gives more information about each product to the
buyer. the machine stocks everything from
designer jewellery to bath
and beauty products.
this vending machine is a pizzeria in a box. ‘the wonder pizza’ cooks 9
inch pizzas in a mere 2 minutes
each. users can select their desired
crispness and pick from 3 different flavours. the machine isn’t as
as you might think. it is reported to have taken over 5 years to
develop at a cost of over 6 million USD.
each machine can hold around
100 pizza and uses real ovens not microwaves to cook the pizza.
for the birds
you may think that vending machines are only for humans, but joshua
klein developed one that is
designed for crows. the device aims to
autonomously train crows to deposit coins they find on the
the machine in exchange for peanuts. the machine is an experiment to
see how the crows
learn to do these tasks and if it is possible to
teach them other tasks like collecting garbage.
the japanese clothing retailer uniqlo has fully embraced the japanese
obsession with all thing vending
machine. in 2007 they opened a new
location in the harajuku area of tokyo that only sold t-shirts packaged
in tubes. each shirt is numbered on a giant wall of shelving, allowing
buyers to select their
t-shirt of choice just like a vending machine.
the brand continued this idea in 2008, when they opened
vending machine in new york to promote their heattech apparel line.
this vending machine
featured a male and female model inside of the
glass modelling the new shirts. each customer received
a shirt from the
giant vending machines
while it is common to see the standard size vending machine boxes, a
new breed of machine is cropping
up around the world. this particular
example is in strasbourg, france and is around the size of a small
like a shop, this vending machine also stocks quite a large
number of items that go beyond a simple soft
drink and snack food. the
machines feature a series of shelves which are stocked with items and
mechanical arm which grabs each purchase and delivers it to the
while most vending machine sell novelty products and sugary treats,
this machine sells bike parts.
the ‘trek stop’ is located out side of
an existing bike shop and sells everything from repair kits to power
bars. in addition the station also has an air pump to inflate tires,
for a price. however the kiosk doesn’t
just provide the products to
repair your bike it also has a television screen with video
to teach users how to make repairs. while this particular
machine was an experiment, this idea could be
very useful in urban
areas with heavy bike traffic.
back in 2008 the japanese sports brand onitsuka tiger launched this
vending machine in the UK to
promote their sneakers. the vending
machine was first installed on london’s carnaby street and dispensed
the brand’s shoes in a choice of 6 sizes. the machine holds 24 pairs of
shoes that drop once purchased.
while the machine wasn’t permanent, it
was a big hit with fans of the shoes and anyone who recently
sustainability is becoming more mainstream in the vending machine
business, not only in the power
source but also the products they sell.
this machine concept design by theo richardson, charles brill and
williams is designed to sell batteries for portable electronics. the
batteries would be a standardized
size to make them as versatile as
possible. the machine would dispense fully charged batteries that users
could exchange for their used up ones. the idea is to solve battery
waste by recharging batteries and using
them multiple times.
photo by stephen witherden
most vending machines offer a variety of low-cost consumables, but this
new type of vending machine
offers a range of electronics that vary
from memory cards to ipods. typically located in airports, these
machines provide customers with a wide range of products to fulfill
their gadget hunger. while buying
extra memory for your camera before
your vacation seems logical, we can’t quite understand what people
expect to use an ipod for if it doesn’t come with any music.