By Mike Pomranz
Updated June 18, 2015
Credit: © Moviestore collection Ltd / Alamy

A group in Des Moines wants their city to be the first to try out a new automated grocery store that can robotically dispense food and other grocery items 24 hours a day—so basically a glorified vending machine.

The Oasis24seven describes itself as an “automated retail self-service solution” that is kind of like a cross between a convenience store and a vending machine or ATM. Customers choose items off of a touch screen, pay electronically with a credit card and then wait for items to be dispensed via a small pick-up door on the side. The whole thing can operate around the clock without any clerk staring at you suspiciously as you take way too long deciding what kind of snack to purchase.

The group Eat Greater Des Moines thinks this store could help provide healthy food options in neighborhoods where choices are limited. “The access to quality food for reasonable price is really important, so our goal is to keep prices in line with the grocery store,” Aubrey Alvarez, the woman who is heading the project, told Des Moines’s KCCI. “We really are trying to focus more on grocery staple items, so what are those things that people use very regularly but can't find in a convenience store?” Assuming she can get approval from the city and raise $70,000 to fund the project, Alvarez is hoping to have the store up and running in a parking lot in the downtown Des Moines area in the near future.

As for the store itself, Dave Maurer of Oasis24seven described it to KCCI: “It can dispense anything from 1 ounce to 10 pounds,” he said. “The robotics are belt-driven. There's an extractor that takes the item off of the rack, puts it on a belt and delivers it.”

As to how well it works in the real world, that’s yet to be seen. You probably just don’t want to be around when the machine malfunctions and someone accidentally gets an entire week’s worth of groceries caught inside there. I don’t think the old vending machine trick of banging on the glass will solve that problem.