The vending machine that guesses your age

Leo Lewis, Asia Business correspondent of The Times (London), writes about attitudes toward smokingOden
in Japan
and "extraordinary phenomena" such as being permitted to smoke indoors but not outdoors. He also introduces us to software designed to prevent underage smoking.

After years of quite astonishingly liberal views on these things,
cigarette vending machines are to have achingly high-tech
age-recognition software installed in order to prevent the under-20s
getting their hands on Japan Tobacco’s evil products.  It is actually
rather impressive. I went to Kyoto to see Omron’s version of this
software and it was able, within less than a second and using a
standard digital video camera, to guess my age correctly. [Link]

That sounds like great technology, but what happens when the software tells the 24-year-old graduate student that her boyfriend, who claims to be 32, is actually 52?

Some people look older than they actually are. Take 19-year-old basketball star Greg Oden to the machine and it will probably say: "Sale permitted. Age 35."

If you think people kick vending machines a lot now, just wait until this technology becomes more common.

Woman: "Hey, why are you kicking the machine? Did it give you the wrong change?"

Man: "No, even worse: it gave me the wrong age."

I think – even for those of us over the age of 20 – it should become
a matter of honour to fool the  machines as often and as hilariously as
possible. With masks. Crazy masks.

My anarchic pal Teal’c has suggested carrying around a life-size
photograph of the face of Roger Moore, and holding that up to the
vending machine to establish one’s age.

I like the idea of doing the same with the face of Mother Theresa or
perhaps Bob Monkhouse just to see how sophisticated the software really
is. Perhaps it sells you particular brands based on what you look like.
Mahatma Ghandi disguises might get you a packet of Peace. [Link

If the software is sophisticated enough, it will recognize Gandhi’s picture and give you some important details about him. "Sale denied. That is a picture of Mahatma Gandhi. A champion of nonviolent resistance, he is considered the father of India. And his name, by the way, is spelled G-A-N-D-H-I."

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through and You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.


  1. ROFL, too funny

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: