Beverage giant Coca-Cola is giving the world’s dumb vending machines an AI-powered makeover in a bid to banish jammed change slots, broken dispensers and other malfunctions to the dim and distant past.
Going way beyond a colourful touchscreen, Coca-Cola harbours visions of infusing the humourless lumps of metal, electronics and glass with a personality – making the process of acquiring a Coke can ‘fun’ by creating a compatible bot to live on your smartphone.
Outlining how this might come about in the next generation of machines Lauren Kunze, chief executive of Pandorabots, said: “Bots help brands reach customers on the channels that they prefer, enabling personalised, two-way communication at scale.
"This is especially valuable for consumer packaged goods companies and other verticals where third-party distribution channels mean that, historically, the brand does not have a direct line of communication with their customers.”
In addition to pepping up what is a mundane experience, Coca-Cola is also mindful of data such approaches can provide, as Kunze observed: “Vending and sampling are two examples of previously anonymous, transient transactions that, when combined with a messaging interface, allow the brand to gather user feedback and track data, like individual purchase history and preferences, to remarket and personalize offers.
"I expect QR codes, particularly at POS systems and in print and television ads, to be especially powerful in bridging offline to online and opening a persistent thread.”
Coca-Cola will debut its new vending machine apps over the next fortnight at select locations in the US, Australia and New Zealand – allowing customers to order multiple drinks ahead of time ready for collection.
This wouldn't be the first time Coca-Cola has repurposed the humble vending machine, having unveiled a quirky set of 'reverse' vending machines at the start of the year to encourage gifting.