Virtual women lure men to Japan's vending machines

Call it AI coffee, or a silly gimmick, but you can download a female friend who lives in your local coffee vending machine.

Georgia coffee girl
"I'm waiting at the usual spot," this virtual barista says. Coca-Cola Japan

TOKYO -- Drinking coffee in Japan is a particularly sad enterprise.

Much coffee here comes in the form of cans dispensed from 5.5 million vending machines nationwide. And many of those machines have Tommy Lee Jones' sour-looking face plastered on them.

The long-eared thespian may be laughing his way to the bank, but now Coca-Cola ad hacks seem to be laughing cynically at the average Japanese male working stiff. They believe he'll buy more joe if virtual women send out text messages from vending machines.

Coke's local brown swill is Georgia coffee and it's available in more than 20 varieties. Like everything else in the multiverse, it has an app: Hanaseru Jihanki Georgia (Georgia the Talking Vending Machine).

When you install this piece of iOS or Android software on your smartphone, you can choose one of six virtual females who will send you text messages centered on your mutual love of caffeine. But don't expect a hard sell.

"You've worked hard today," she'll coo. "Please take it easy for a while."

Georgia coffee
"Please relax for a while," the Georgia coffee woman texts. Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

She's not without practical advice, either. "You might need an umbrella today" is one of the preset texts, triggered by an inclement weather forecast based on GPS data.

The six ladies are described as coffee shop "managers" and are actually based on real, famous women. One, for instance, is Aoi Tamagi, a 21-year-old TV weather announcer.

App users are expected to scan QR codes on the vending machines they frequent. When they approach, the dispensers automatically send them smartphone messages, including cute illustrations of coffee cups or teddy bears. Whatever gets customers to feed the machine -- and quench their thirst for coffee.

Tommy Lee Jones
Tommy Lee Jones sells Boss coffee alongside boy band SMAP. Tim Hornyak/CNET

By replying, users can experience the illusion of communicating with these "vending machine angels" as an awestruck mechanic describes them in the ridiculous ad below.

Sure the responses are all canned, just like the coffee. After all, Japan is no stranger to the novelty of virtual girlfriends and pop stars .

Granted, if one were desperate enough to buy coffee from a machine (incidentally, Japan actually does have a few excellent, even atmospheric independent coffee shops run by old-fashioned in-the-flesh humans), these ladies are easier on the eyes than Tommy Lee Jones.

If the app's popularity is any indication, the coffee sirens seem to be spawning real relationships, or at least interest, among consumers. The application snagged the No. 1 spot in Google Play's entertainment category in Japan.

Georgia on my mind, indeed. It's only about as absurd as the whole notion of canned coffee itself.

(Via The Bridge)

 

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