Freeloading kids get their just desserts, high-tech style

A high-tech vending machine has been launched to prevent children from getting a jelly desert. But sadly the technology isn’t yet developed enough to actually work when age limits really count.

The iSample machine, created by Intel for Kraft, is being used to distribute free samples of a new jelly product. There isn’t any legal reason why kids can’t have it; instead Kraft just wants to market the product as more sophisticated than traditional jelly-based puddings.

The machine has cameras that scan anyone within a 25 foot radius and then estimates their age based on factors such as the distances between their ears, eyes, and nose. If a child is spotted in the area, the machine refuses to dispense the sample and instead displays a message saying “Sorry, Kid. You’re too young to appreciate indulgences like this. Please step away, so the grownups can get their free treat.”

Marketing aside I can see the logic of this: when I was a teenager, most kids would see a free sample machine like this as a way to either stuff their faces or get free ammo for a shopping mall food fight. But you do have to wonder how many parents will be prepared to shoo their child 25 feet away so they can get a free dessert, and whether parents who’d make that choice should be encouraged.

Intel is quick to defense itself against claims of creepiness. It says all processing is done on-board the machine, and that no images or video are permanently stored. However it is looking at expanding the technology to capture information such as how long people spend looking at the machine, or whether they smile after trying the dessert.

The main drawback is that the age recognition is nowhere near reliable enough to use for age-restricted products such as alcohol or tobacco.