Vending machines are so awesome, so why does it seem they only sell snacks and drinks nowadays? From a machine that accepts hugs instead of money, to robotic convenience stores, let’s take a look at 20 machines that should exist in more places around the world.
20. Cola Hug Vending Machine
Most machines accept cash, some credit, or debit cards. A few may even accept Bitcoin. But this machine at a university in Singapore spits out drinks in exchange for hugs. Hey, even vending machines get lonely, right?
A company spokesperson says this is a marketing initiative called “Open Happiness” to put a smile on people’s faces and help them share an emotional connection. They plan to release more machines across Asia.
19. Umbrella vending machine
It seems that whenever I forget to bring an umbrella, I get caught in downpours. That’s why we should have more of these free umbrella-dispensing machines.
Dydo Drinco stocks the sides of its machines with umbrellas left behind on trains. These are provided by several railway companies, and the machines are in sixteen prefectures. Seventy percent of people who borrow the umbrellas eventually return them to the machines. It’s an amazing concept, and one even start-ups are starting to capitalize on.
Elsewhere in Vancouver, UmbraCity has a service you sign up to for free umbrellas. If the umbrella isn’t returned to one of the kiosks within 48 hours, the user’s credit card is charged $2 for each overdue day, up to a maximum of $20. So the service is effectively free if you’re careful enough to return your umbrella in time.
18. Random Jackpot machine
Sometimes I’d like to have a random slot machine appear out of nowhere; no need to drive to the nearest casino. This vending machine isn’t exactly a slot machine, but for about 1000 yen, or nine American dollars, it’s a real gamble what you’ll get—it could be anything!
Supposedly everything in the machine is worth at least nine dollars but don’t expect too much… this guy got a cat hat he probably wore once.
Also in Japan, you’ll find this unusual mystery box machine. Each box tells a little story, and inside is a random snack. I just hope it isn’t ANOTHER new flavor of potato chip.
17. Band Merch
It’s annoying when you’re at a concert and want to buy souvenirs, but don’t want to leave the show, or wait in a long line later. French rock band Phoenix decided to do something about it, so they created a vending machine, the “Super Mercato.”
They took it on the road with them, and their record label noted it was well-received, allowing people to pay with credit cards and buy without having to wait in a long line at a merchandise table.
16. This Coffee Vending Machine
This seems like a miracle: Dutch coffee company Douwe Egbert has created a vending machine that dispenses free coffee—all you have to do is yawn at it. The machine uses facial recognition software to track muscle movements in the face. When it detects a yawn, it pours coffee into a cup for the sleepy person.
The company’s strategy was to place the machine in South Africa’s busy O. R. Tambo airport and give free coffee to tired travelers, assuming they’d love the coffee so much they would eventually start buying it.
15. School medicine
CVS Pharmacy decided to make some of its products more accessible by placing them in vending machines across the country, in busy places like airports, public transit stations, office parks, and college campuses.
One Reddit user uploaded a picture of their school’s CVS machine, and users immediately noted that it was already sold out of Pedialyte—a frequent hangover remedy on college campuses. Not that I remember.
Anyway, the machine also stocks other over-the-counter remedies, personal care, and hygiene items, healthy snacks and beverages, and even office items like phone chargers. Unlike most vending machines, it features an on-screen menu that offers expansive info about each product.
14. Ikea spare parts
The worst thing about putting together Ikea furniture is that if you lose even the tiniest of pieces, you won’t be able to put together your item. That’s why we need more of these machines.
Some stores have them—you pay a dollar for each piece, but you also get a coupon for about the same amount off in their restaurant. I guess that’s a good way to get you to spend even MORE time in Ikea!
13. Lego vending machine
Going on a long train journey? This train station has a Lego vending machine. The last-minute building sets are sold to keep the kids busy on a long trip.
That’s all fun and games, until the conductor steps on one of those tiny pieces!
12. Pencil Vending machine
Here’s a way to stop students from getting away with writing anything down because they ‘ran out of stationary’. Simply install stationary vending machines at schools.
Now that would solve a lot of issues. Its convenient and helps fund the schools themselves.
11. Fresh Orange Juice Machine
I love freshly-squeezed orange juice, but who has time to squeeze oranges? Fortunately, there’s a vending machine for that.
Touted as “from tree to your cup”, this machine squeezes oranges into juice while you watch. The juice comes out ice cold, and the machine cleans itself every day.
10. Manicure machine
Don’t you just hate it when you can’t get an appointment to get your nails done? Fortunately now we don’t have to wait… just visit the manicure vending machine. Its interactive menu allows you to choose from more than five thousands patterns, including tiny pictures of celebrities. Once you pick your pattern, you just stick your hand inside and the machine takes care of the rest.
9. Hot Burgers
Sometimes fast food just isn’t fast enough, when you have to wait in line and shout an order at a menu board. Well, this machine makes you a hot burger without all the hassle.
You do have to get out of your car though. The machine offers a variety of specials, but no word on whether you can get that with extra ketchup….
Not in the mood for burgers? The BurritoBox makes you a hot burrito in less than 90 seconds.
Lose your money or have another problem? Good thing you can video chat with an on-call customer service specialist.
8. Salad machine
Burgers and burritos aside, who says you can’t get anything healthy out of a vending machine? The Farmer’s Fridge machine offers a variety of salad bowls.
They’re discounted by $1, starting at 6 PM every evening. Unsold bowls are frequently donated to local food pantries, so nothing goes to waste.
In the Netherlands, this looks like a florist’s store front, but it’s actually a large vending machine.
The flowers are behind glass, and the doors open after you pay.
Meanwhile, this hospital vending machine provides flowers 24/7. Why pay humans to get bored waiting for customers when they can serve themselves with this machine?
How about a nice, hot baguette? In France, these long bread loaves are popular, but most bakeries aren’t open 24/7. What do you do when you have a carb craving? You head to one of these machines.
The specially formulated dough is only cooked partially, and when you pay one euro, the machine cooks it the rest of the way in just a few minutes, providing you with a fresh baguette.
Low-income neighborhoods are often “book deserts” where children have limited access to books. Unfortunately, this can impact their reading skills and background knowledge when they start school, and for the rest of their lives.
JetBlue started a program called Soar With Reading, where they place book vending machines in these low-income areas, and kids can check out the books like at a library.
For adults, there’s the Biblio-Mat machine, which dispenses a random book for $2.
4. Live goldfish
Did Jaws, your pet goldfish just bite the dust? The only way to somewhat ease the pain is head over to the Submarine Catcher – which is kind of like a claw machine, but for a live goldfish.
If you manage to catch one, it’s yours, but as you can see, it’s not easy to catch a moving fish in a cup.
It would be a great addition to a pet fish store. Still, I can’t help but think the overpopulated tank is a little cruel, and it must be a pain to maintain!
If you want a more robust fishing experience, you can stop by the Gold Coast Live Bait vending machine, and pick up everything from worms to squid to bait up.
They have more than a hundred machines on the East Coast and claim their bait is fresher than anything else on the market.
3. Automated convenience store
The first person to imagine an automated convenience store was Clarence Saunders, who started the Piggly Wiggly chain, which was the first self-service store.
Prior to this concept, cashiers would find your goods at the checkout for you, much like a modern-day pharmacy. This inspired the design of modern grocery stores, with checkouts at the front.
But he wasn’t done yet. He also designed the Keedoozle, which was like a large vending machine. Customers served themselves by turning a key and choosing how many of each item they wanted.
Sadly, 1940’s technology wasn’t quite up to the task, especially during busy times, and the Keedoozle was short-lived. It doesn’t mean the idea has died out though.
Today, Shop24 has a similar but more easily executed design. It carries convenience store items, like milk, candy, and laundry soap, and has an automated checkout.
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Smartmart is another automated convenience store, where customers can use an interactive screen to choose items without ever leaving their car. Four ports offer a touch screen for choosing items, a credit card reader, ID reader, and cash machine.
There’s also this vending machine in Barcelona which offers a large array of drinks and snacks with automated checkout.
France offers something similar: the 24h/24 automated shop, open all hours.
2. Rent a bike dispenser in the Netherlands
This bike vending machine was introduced in 2005 in Eindhoven, Netherlands.
It’s a rental machine and users return their bike when they’re done with it. If you “forget” to return your bike, the machine’s owners will track it down with its RFID chip.
Here’s an autonomous grocery store that drives itself to you. It’s not a delivery service in which someone else picks out your groceries. Instead, the mart is a large van that drives its entire inventory to you—after you call and schedule a visit—and you pick through its stock. There’s no need to check yourself out, as you set up an account and payment method when you download the app and order the visit. When you’re done, Robomart drives away. Talk about meals on wheels!
What’s the most interesting vending machine you’ve ever seen? And which one do you think we need the most? Let me know in the comment section down below!