Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Vending Machines + Facial Recognition = One More Reason Why Japan Is Awesome

Yesterday a cigarette vending machine was released in Japan that can tell whether or not someone is an adult based on facial recognition. The machine uses a complex system of heuristics to make this determination, including on the bone structure, wrinkles, and the way that the skin sags (or doesn't) on a person's face. In the cases where the machine is unable to determine definitively that a person is 20 years old (the legal age to buy cigarettes in Japan) they can insert their drivers license as an alternate form of identification. This is some crazy science fiction that could only come from the land of the rising sun.

When I visited Japan I made a point of using the beer vending machines, because well, it's beer in a freaking machine! What more reason do you need?! Incidentally an awesome drinking game is to wander the streets of Tokyo aimlessly and buy a biru from each vending machine you stumble across. One thing that I quickly learned was that I was not able to buy beer after 8pm (different machines seemed to have different times but 8pm seemed to be the norm). This was their solution for preventing minors from purchasing beer or cigarettes from the vending machines that blanket metropolitan areas. These machines were equipped with card readers so that locals could use their driver's license as proof of age after 8pm but of course my gaijin passport was not supported. In any case I'm sure they'll start using these for biru and I can't wait to go back to test them. With any luck they will be calibrated to also handle funny-looking white guys...

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