LAS VEGAS -- Kraft Foods Inc. and Intel Corp. have collaborated for two years to develop the high-tech Diji-Taste vending machine, which will make its debut this week at the National Automatic Merchandising Association's OneShow in Las Vegas.
The interactive vender, second in a series that began with the Diji-Touch, is designed to engage multiple consumers with full-length LCD touchscreens on three sides of the machine. Another novel feature is optical facial-recognition technology and 3D cameras that center the experience on the user and add an extra element of fun.
Kraft conceived the machine as a high-tech approach to sampling its product, and deployed a proof-of-concept model late last year. Called the iSample Experience, the pilot machine was unveiled with great fanfare at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium. It dispensed refrigerated single-serve samples of a mousse-like dessert, Temptations by Jell-O, the brand's first product designed specifically for adults.
The machine uses a 3D digital camera to recognize the shape of the patron's face. A computer processor then carries out a series of calculations based on measurements such as the distance between the eyes, nose and ears. These are used to determine the gender and age bracket of the shopper.
Using this technology, the iSample machine enabled free vends only to the patrons it recognized as adults. | SEE STORY
Kraft also tested the machine at other locations in Chicago and New York, as well as in Europe through its Cadbury division.
"The program was very successful, generating more than four million impressions," Kraft business development manager Frank Guzzone told VT. "We're very excited by its reception by the end consumer, and internally at Kraft, and by the possibilities for more widespread use of the machines beyond sampling."
The maker of Oreo cookies and Ritz crackers is now looking to partner with vending operators to bring the high-tech machine mainstream. Diji-Taste's elevator delivery system can accommodate a wide range of ambient and refrigerated products and package sizes.
Guzzone said operators can leverage its interactive features to attract more consumers, harness the power of social networking and generate a new revenue stream by running advertisements on its high-impact 46" screens.
"With smartphones, the Internet and social media, we believe the vending industry is on fertile ground to use this technology to revive itself," said Guzzone. "Diji-Taste provides a virtual experience to interact with the end user, and the possibilities are limitless. The machine is capable of capturing a smile that patrons can download to Facebook, or they could send a sample to a friend across the country via two Diji-Taste or Diji-Touch machines."
Kraft partnered with local vending operators to fill and maintain its iSample machines, and intends to follow the same business model as it rolls out Diji-Taste to the industry on a wider scale.
"We will work with operators on a case-by-case basis," said Guzzone. "We are still defining the model and looking for ways to share revenue with the operator. We need to make sure that when we expand, we can sustain it and continue to develop it. The industry needs to bring more traffic to machines."
Diji-Taste will make its first appearance at the NAMA's mobile vending exhibit on the day before the kickoff of the vending show. It's set for the University of Nevada (Las Vegas) on Tues., April 24 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. UNLV students and faculty, and vending industry members attending the event, will be able to interact with two of the machine's touchscreens to receive samples of Kraft's Dentyne gum in a new Split2Fit pack, designed to hold 16 pieces of gum rather than the 12 in a conventional package. Rolling out at NAMA, Split2Fit can be divided into two smaller, easier-to-carry packs. The machine's third LCD display will stream advertisements.
At the NAMA OneShow, the machine's displays will be configured differently, with the front screen showing an interactive instructional video about the new Dentyne packaging and how operators can replace their existing gum and mint trays with Vendors Exchange International Inc.'s 7th Tray to accommodate the larger format.
Another touchscreen display will be the user interface, which allows patrons to see the package close up and read its nutritional facts and ingredients. Users can obtain a free sample by scanning the machine's QR barcode with their smartphones. The user receives a code from the website that the barcode scan sends them to, and this entitles him or her to a free vend.
The third screen will allow NAMA OneShow-goers to take part in the widely publicized iSample experience to receive Dentyne Split2Fit pack samples, and to play interactive games that make use of the machine's ability to recognize age and gender.
Guzzone emphasized that the Diji-Taste machine does not capture any user images or demographic information. "It's meant only to put the fun back in vending, and to create a better experience without being 'Big Brother,'" he said.
NAMA's OneShow will also mark the full commercialization of Kraft's next-generation Diji-Touch snack vending machine. Kraft completed the beta test phase of the prototype machines last spring, and will now begin deploying the production version with selected operators throughout the U.S. as it gears up for full commercialization.
"NAMA will be the coming-out party for Diji-Touch; we will begin deploying it after the show," Guzzone told VT. "We will bring machines into the field in several markets, and make sure they work the way we want. The program will continue to expand, based on the results."
Guzzone added that the Diji-Touch machine also is being tested in Australia and the United Kingdom, and that Kraft expects to expand the program as a global initiative during 2013.
Without wishing to divulge too many details ahead of the OneShow debut, Guzzone described the second-generation machine as the "whole package," including content management, hardware, and robust software designed for easy-to-navigate, intuitive management by operators.
The vender, manufactured by Crane Co., features an embedded networked computer and 46" Samsung LCD touchscreen display. The graphics software enables users to view the product, its details and complete product nutrition information on a virtual cube, simply by touching its onscreen icon to rotate it 360°. The machines also are designed to display interactive advertising. Banner advertisements stream across the top of the screen, and full-screen ads appear when the machine is not in use.