The Swap-O-Matic machine, which lets users trade objects. (www.swap-o-matic.com)
The Swap-O-Matic machine allows users to trade objects. There are many machines out there that push the boundaries of traditional vending machines. (Source: swap-o-matic.com)

The cell phones and computers of today have evolved considerably from their old, block-shaped versions. In our focus on those things, maybe we have been blind to the developments of an equally useful contraption – the vending machine.

The vending machine business has expanded far beyond the traditional chips and soda. Its reach now stretches to offering comfy shoes and full-on meals.

A vending machine used to train crows has been developed by Joshua Klein. After he noticed the black birds seemed intelligent and highly adaptive, he spent 10 years reading scientific literature about them and finally built a machine to train them through three phases. Eventually, the participating crows learned how to exchange coins for peanuts in a vending machine. Because of the birds’ learning capability, Klein sees the potential for the crows to be trained to pick up litter or perform search and rescue missions.

As a hopeful solution to feeding starving animals and cleaning up the planet, the Turkish Pugedon company has placed a creative, new vending machine in Istanbul. It works as a tradeoff system that does not directly involve money. Empty plastic bottles are inserted at the top and pet food is released through the bottom. This takes some of the load off the shoulders of nearby villagers who have been feeding stray animals.

On a similar green note, recycling machines by Envirobank have been placed in Sydney, Australia. These give human users bus tickets, coupons for food or prize drawing entries in return for recyclable materials. Vending machines like this are thought to be good ways to get residents into the recycling practice.

Europeans have lucked out. Pizza vending machines are now in business near them. The Let’s Pizza machines operate at any hour of the day, producing a 10.5-inch pizza for customers at the cost of $7. In less than three minutes, the machine bakes fresh pizza. It is programmed to knead the dough, add sauces and toppings to the pie and heat it up.

In Las Vegas, there used to be a live lobster vending machine. Very much like the skill cranes businesses offer for users to snatch stuffed animals or other small prizes, customers were challenged to claw a lobster. If they were successful, the restaurant cooked the seafood for them free of charge.

The famous lobster claw machine was located in Tinoco’s Kitchen in Vegas, a restaurant that has been closed, according to Yelp.

The Swap-O-Matic vending machine in New York City presents an interesting idea: trading in used items for something a different user donated. It operate purely on the honor system, but was created “to inspire all of us to rethink our consumption habits,” according to their website.

Rollasole machines are offered in four U.S. locations, including Las Vegas. They sell comfortable ballet flats which roll up for easy storage at a price of $20. Rollasole created these vending machines to offer an alternative to painful heels after a night out.

 

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