Are Automated Stores Taking Over the World?

Life in the 21st century is moving faster than ever, yet for some people it can feel as though there’s still never enough time. As each new decade arrives, technology seems to find more ways to simultaneously save our time and fill it up with options. Looking back, however, we can see that there are a number of areas where technology has been a saving grace: think of washing machines, ATMs and email. Each of these inventions has enabled us to drastically reduce the amount of time we spend on mundane tasks.

What about humble snack vending machines? Well, although we usually associate them with cold cans of Coke and an afternoon snack, a new wave of machines are being developed that promise to save us more time than ever before; welcome to the world of Automated Stores.

From Holy Water to 3D Printing

While vending machines may seem like a relatively recent invention, you may be surprised to know that the very first one was developed by Hero of Alexandria to stop people stealing holy water in the 1st century AD. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that vending machines became commonplace, with simple machines selling postcards or chewing gum to pedestrians on the streets of London and New York. Almost a century later the traditional ‘full line’ vending machines we are familiar with were developed, offering hungry and thirsty customers the opportunity to grab a wide range of snacks just by pushing a few buttons. Fast forward to today and we are on the verge of a new wave of innovation, with a plethora of unique automated store designs preparing to be released to the public.

The Latest Developments in Vending Machine Technology

The next few years promise to turn the idea of automated stores on its head. Here are some of the newest and more daring designs from around the world:

Students at Virginia Tech now have the opportunity to order 3D models and prototypes from Dream Lab’s ‘Dream Vendor’, a 3D printer housed in a vending machine that lets you insert an SD card with a CAD design and have the finished model printed out for you on the spot.

On Demand Books has created the ‘Espresso Book Machine’, an automated book-printing machine that can prepare and a print a book from scratch in just 5 minutes. Not only is this useful when you need a textbook that is out of stock, it also enables authors to print up a copy of their latest work to share with publishing houses – a much more professional look than the old stack-of-paper manuscript.

The world’s biggest coffee franchise Starbucks is hoping to expand its empire with a slate of hi-tech vending machines that offer high-quality, freshly-ground coffee and individually steamed milk. Although vending machines don’t have a reputation for brewing the finest cup of Joe, this one might change your mind!

We’ve all heard the stories about some of the odd products you can get from vending machines in Japan, but A1 Concepts are looking to take things a step further with a vending machine that creates authentic, fresh pizza in less than two-and-a-half minutes, meaning that you no longer have to wait around for a pizza delivery when you get the craving for a slice.

While we may be used to vending machines sitting in a corner of the office or on a subway platform, Vengo Labs has decided to take the idea of mobile vending machines further by offering them in the back of taxis! Known as ‘Taxi Treats’, these touch-screen, credit-card only vending machines are designed to save you time and stress if you’ve jumped in a cab and suddenly realized you’ve forgotten something.

With the above vending machines and automated stores hitting the mainstream it’s only a matter of time before virtually any product can be purchased 24/7, saving time and removing the need to wait for the daytime hours to do your shopping!

This article was written by Ron Wahlen, owner of 247VendingMachines, Brisbane’s vending experts!