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Robotic Vending Machines

Updated on December 27, 2011

In the future, you may find wheeled, robotic vending machines roving the hallways of your apartment building.

Vending machines are so common, we figure than everyone has seen a vending machine. There may be people living in a third-world country who haven't seen a vending machine, yet, but here in America, we've all seen them. The funny thing is...vending machines have changed very little over the years. The vending machines we see today are pretty much the same as vending machines that were used 20 or 30 years ago. What would a vending machine of the future be like?

First of all, you would not have to come to the machine, it will come to you! Vending machines of the future will be equipped with wheels, so they can travel around, and sell things. A typical sales route for a future vending machine would be the hallways of an apartment building. The vending machine of the future will be equipped with a set of wheels, and it will be powered by batteries. It will be driven by electric motors, and it will travel up and down the hallways of the apartment building where you live. It may sell candy, flashlight batteries, postage stamps,or other small items. It may be available on an 'as-needed' basis, which means, when you need the vending machine, you call for it. After you use your phone to call the vending machine, it will emerge from the closet where it is stored, and it will travel down the hallway until it reaches your apartment. When it is right outside your door, it will stop in front of your door, and signal you with a bell or a buzzer.

When the vending machine arrives at your door, you open your door and insert money into the vending machine. If you don't use money, you may pay for your purchases with a debit card or credit card. The items you buy would be stored inside the machine, and the item you buy will be dropped into a slot. All you have to do it reach into the slot and get it out. After you obtain the item you've bought, the machine will automatically drive away, and it will go back to it's storage closet. After it reaches it's storage closet, it will go inside, and shut itself off, and wait until it is needed again.

A vending machine of this type would not be capable of carrying large objects, but there are plenty of small items that it could carry, and sell. It could carry toilet paper, and soap. If you ran out of toilet paper, you wouldn't have to go to a store and buy it, if the vending machine could bring it to you. Suppose you needed a replacement battery for a cell-phone or some other device, a small item like that could be sold by a robotic vending machine. The robotic vending machine would have to be guided by a machine-vision system, with video cameras that function as the machine's 'eyes'. It's computer 'brain' would have to be capable of detecting obstacles in the hallway, and stopping or steering around them to avoid collisions. If an apartment building was equipped with a fleet of several robotic vending machines, it will save the residents of that building a lot of unnecessary trips to the store!

Anthony Ratkov. December 27,2011. Invention by Anthony Ratkov. Computer-graphic illustrations by Anthony Ratkov.


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