The new technology would allow remote ordering and the ability to "chat."

By Clara Olshansky
Updated August 24, 2017
coca-cola ai vending machine
Credit: Courtesy of Coca-Cola Journey

Robots have already started taking over the world of beverages. We've seen artificial intelligence brew beer, come up with artsy-sounding names for craft beers, act as waiters for your beer order, and, lest you thought wine would be safe from the robot takeover, predict wine prices. Soon we may also see artificial intelligence infiltrate the world of soft drinks. In Australia, a team from Coca-Cola Amatil (Coca-Cola's manufacturer in Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Samoa), is working on transforming vending machines to operate without anyone having to actually touch them.

According to Journey, Coca-Cola's in-house magazine, the team has updated a machine in the town of Masterton, New Zealand so that, once it is cloud-connected, people can simply order a Coke using their phone. That includes, in theory, anyone in the world, meaning if you're in New York and your friend in New Zealand is having a rough day, you can order that friend a Coke right to where they are (assuming they're near a vending machine). The update also allows Coca-Cola to adjust pricing remotely, offer specials or discounts on products, and send restocking and sales information back to the company automatically.

Customers would also be able to chat with Coca-Cola's bot via Facebook Messenger. That's where the AI will really be apparent to customers. As the Coca-Cola Journey puts it, "Consumers could jump into personalized chats with Coca-Cola, as if they were communicating with a familiar bodega operator...Using data gathered through the consumer's Facebook activity, current location and tone of conversation, the AI bot will adopt a local dialect and attitude tailored to each user."

Perhaps the biggest innovation is that all of this technology is being applied to an existing vending machine. However, in order to apply these features, the upgrade would take about 45 minutes to complete. With over 26,000 machines operating in Coca-Cola Amatil's territory, there's still a lot of human work to be done before everything becomes completely automated.