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UCSD Biometric Vending Machine 144

dice writes to tell us that grad students at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) are creating the first biometric vending machine. The current machine comes equipped with a barcode scanner, a fingerprint reader, and a web cam for facial recognition. One student dubbed it the "most over-designed soda machine in the world." The project, code-named "SodaVision," is the brainchild of associate professor Stefan Savage, but it was the students who really made it come to life. And yes, it runs Linux.
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UCSD Biometric Vending Machine

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  • by fragmentate ( 908035 ) * <<jdspilled> <at> <gmail.com>> on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @06:22PM (#15828139) Journal
    ...I won't get my $.50 back now when I flip off the soda machine every time it chomps my coins? Or, is the snack machine going to recognize my frustration, and shake the stuck bag of Cheetos loose for me?

    People sure have a lot of time on their hands!

    • > ...I won't get my $.50 back now when I flip off the soda machine every time it chomps my coins? Or, is the snack machine going to recognize my frustration, and shake the stuck bag of Cheetos loose for me?

      Never flip off a vending machine. They carry one hell of a grudge.

      DISPENSER: You are my nemesis... one day, our paths will cross again, and I - I will destroy you...

      RIMMER: And on that day, I will be the Captain of this ship.

      (A whole lot of plot spoilers happen)

      DISPENSER: Every dog has its d

    • More than likely, it will recognise you and put the can of soda through a tortuous journey through the shakers and bangers to make sure you have a nice drink of soda delivered right up your nose when you open it.
  • by qewl ( 671495 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @06:23PM (#15828146)
    Let me be the first to say, I'd be afraid to vote on that thing. Especially libertarian..
    • Libertarian (aka closet/hipster republican) is fine; I'd be more afraid to vote democrat or -worse yet- green or socialist. Those are the parties which are more in opposistion to the current regime (ok, not the democrats so much, but the greens and socialists definately are).
      • I'd be afraid to vote green or socialist because I'd be shitscared if they won.

        Also, this entire thread is ridiculously offtopic.
        • I'd be afraid to vote green or socialist because I'd be shitscared if they won.

          Don't be scared; there's absolutely no chance of a Green or Socialist winning (USA). But if enough progressives vote Green or Socialist, we can guarantee that the Republicans win again.

          Burn in hell Ralph there's-no-difference-between-Gore-and-Bush Nader. Really, is there anybody stupid enough to fall for that line of thinking again? Anybody?

      • The dems are the ones who view the greens and reds as threats. The Republicans just point and laugh.

        I wonder why Diebold didn't get the contract to build this cending machine. We trust them with our money and the democratic process, but hands off our tasty snacks! I guess they must be important, though, of Homer was willing to lose an arm for them.

    • by painQuin ( 626852 )
      it's a vending machine... not a voting machine ...
  • *sighs* (Score:5, Funny)

    by Whiney Mac Fanboy ( 963289 ) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @06:24PM (#15828151) Homepage Journal
    from tfa:

    Stick your thumb on the reader so the machine recognizes you as having an account, take out the drink, scan it with the barcode reader, then walk way

    Lucky students are notoriously honest.
    • Re:*sighs* (Score:5, Informative)

      by Skim123 ( 3322 ) <mitchellNO@SPAM4guysfromrolla.com> on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @06:56PM (#15828316) Homepage
      I was a CS grad student at UCSD from 2001-2003. What they had when I was there was something called CafeBob or something like that. It had the barcode scanner. You'd enter your name, scan the item, and it would "deduct" the cost from your account. You could "credit" your account by putting money in a box and then, from the computer, keying in that you deposited X dollars. Very trusting. It was a "co-op" vending machine/system - students would take money from the box to go buy the sodas, snacks, and so on (IIRC).

      I guess now they're taking out the part where you entered your ID and password, and replacing it with a biometric scanner. But, if this is in the same CS grad student lounge, the barcode scanner and basic inventory software has been in place for some time now.

      • Re:*sighs* (Score:3, Informative)

        by Lux ( 49200 )
        They're making Bob less trusting, in part because money had always been slowly leaking away due to theft or negligence in payment.

        To correct the grandparent, it seems that you have to authenticate *before* the machine will vend a soda, which agrees with some announcements I noticed on the department mailing lists. (I'm not at UCSD any more, but I still get the e-mail.) I suspect the scanning is just for inventory tracking, not payment. Maybe the maintainers get an e-mail whenever x Mt. Dews get dispensed
        • Re:*sighs* (Score:2, Interesting)

          by d4 ( 144309 )
          Actually Chez Bob hasn't been leaking money the past few years; it's actually been slowly accumulating capital. The losses stopped when more effective means were undertaken to prevent unauthorized persons (read: undergraduate students) from entering.

          Chez Bob is as trusting as ever, and inventory is still as untracked and unreliable as ever. ;)
    • That two-stage process was required in an earlier version, but now the purchase price is deducted from your account when the can is dispensed.

      Fortunately for would-be grifters, however, it's still possible to increase the balance in one's account without depositing money. ;)
    • Under the original system, unlucky students were mysteriously thumbless.
  • by demonbug ( 309515 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @06:25PM (#15828155) Journal
    were killed to bring us this device.

    Seems really pointless when you think of vending machines that sell soft drinks and snacks, but I guess there could be a use for more-secure vending machines for higher-dollar items (like the one selling iPods I saw a month or two back).
  • Hmm.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by yourOneManArmy ( 986080 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @06:27PM (#15828166)
    When I read the summary I thought, "Hey this sounds pretty useless, but maybe I just missed something." Then I read the article, and I'm still thinking, "Hey this sounds pretty useless."
    • Re:Hmm.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by v783650 ( 948198 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @06:29PM (#15828187)
      Just because it's impractical doesn't make it useless. I'm sure the engineers behind it learned many valuable lessons. Why all the hate? There's nothing wrong with science for science's sake.
      • The machine is useless. The processes involved in its creation are not. I apologize for my lack of clarity.
        • The machine is useless.

          Are you kidding? This machine could pay for itself in one day. Picture this: you're feeling hyper-productive. A million-dollar idea is working itself to the surface of your brain. You are ready to write the best code of your life. You just need one more hit of Mountain Dew to crystallize your focus. You have 27 cents in your pocket.

      • Re:Hmm.. (Score:5, Funny)

        by heinousjay ( 683506 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @06:59PM (#15828327) Journal
        There is absolutely nothing wrong with science for science's sake. This, however, was engineering for engineering's sake, which is one of the most evil forces in the universe.
      • I don't question your first sentence, but the rest of your post scared me. Now, just telling that some thing is useless qualifies as hate-speak, is it what you mean? A giant step for PC-speak, indeed.
      • There's nothing wrong with science for science's sake, or with engineering for engineering's sake. But that doesn't mean that whatever you come up with isn't useless.

        In fact, when you pursue something for the sole purpose of learning about it, rather than a concerted effort to achieve a particular goal, what you end up with usually is useless.
        • at least the students were kept from spending their time having sex for sex's sake, which is anathema to the pursuit of either engineering or science.
      • Where is the science in this? They're just using existing science and technology.
    • by StefanSavage ( 454543 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @07:26PM (#15828439)
      Seriously, I suppose usefulness is in the eye of the beholder, but from my rather pragmatic standpoint the machine has one very important use: it allows me to get a coke with very little effort (while differentiating my debts from those of others). There's really nothing more to it that that. I think people are looking for something deep, or new a new product category, or some groundbreaking science... move on... you won't find it here.

      This project really had two goals: make it easy to buy soft drinks from our grad student co-op and have fun building a real artifact.

      The latter part -- having fun -- is underappreciated. Really, the students had a great time putting the pieces together... they had to design and build an interface board to Vendo's control bus, they had to build a UI (that student was a ST:TNG fan so the interface mimics the screens from the series), they had to interface it to our MySql database that holds user accounts, etc. It was a real esprit de coeur project and one in which everyone had alot of fun. Once it was working, people started adding other components: a 2d bar code scanner (not used for soda, contrary to the article, but for candy and other goods), they added visual recognition (and there is a banana detector in the works to register purchase of bananas), there is a voice synthesizer that can say "Shame" out loud if your cash balance in the co-op goes negative, there is even a student who has been talking about door-to-door delivery using a robot, etc.

      I suspect if we had called it a "case mod", people would have had understood the spirit in which it was built.
      • Chez Bob (Score:3, Informative)

        by ShakaUVM ( 157947 )
        Heya Stefan,

        I (Bill Kerney) was a grad student in CS at UCSD until '01 or '02 or so under Scott Baden.

        For those who don't know, the Chez Bob computer was the most overengineered ledger in the history of ledgers. Every year some student would hack it to do something new and unusual. When I was there, they:
        1) Added passwords (which were not really needed since the fridge door wasn't locked or anything if you wanted to steal something)
        2) Added text to speech.
        3) Added a saying it could say whenever you logged i
      • Quick question : does the machine's interface have the same star trek sound effects? And that sound the replicators make when they are dispensing stuff?
    • When I read the summary I thought, "Hey this sounds pretty useless, but maybe I just missed something." Then I read the article, and I'm still thinking, "Hey this sounds pretty useless."

      It verifies ID, so it verifies age. Thus, it may be good for vending alcohol in drinking-age-paranoiac countries like the US. Or cigarettes - the purchasers' info is sent straight to an insurance database, of course.

      The better and cheaper solution would just be to accept the fact that teenagers *will* drink, lower the

  • DEW 9000 (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Open the pop bay door now...
  • by saterdaies ( 842986 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @06:28PM (#15828177)
    This project is nothing! Linux on a soda machine? I've had NetBSD running on my toaster for years ;)
  • gone! (Score:3, Informative)

    by LotsOfPhil ( 982823 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @06:30PM (#15828192)
    Not only is the article slashdotted, so is their site, http://sodavision.com/ [sodavision.com]. The latter has a few more details.
    • I was able to get to that site just fine.

      Though I find it strains credulity. Am I expected to believe there are soda vending machines out there that vend both Coke and Pepsi products?

      /still angry over zero-day reneging on no-price-increase promise in granting campus monopoly to Pepsi and getting 70-cent 16 oz. bottle vending machines exclusively (12 oz. cans were 50 cents), a price point that virtually guaranteed that the machines would run out of nickels, effectively raising the price to 75 cents a

  • by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @06:32PM (#15828204)
    Now the black and white hats in the computer science department will now have a new toy to fight over. Whoever gets the most freebies wins!
    • Now the black and white hats in the computer science department will now have a new toy to fight over. Whoever gets the most freebies wins!

      No, no. You see, the white hats aren't in it to drink soda. They're there just to test security, so they'll break in, take a picture to prove they did it, write an email to the designers, and get arrested by campus security.

      The black hats in the department will break in, but they don't actually want anyone to know that they managed to break in, or how...so they wo

  • Yes, (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    ..but what distro ?!!?!!!
  • ... SCARY ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TCFOO ( 876339 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @06:46PM (#15828271)
    sorry but paying by fingerprint is a little to scary for me. it's another way for big brother to watch you.
    • by EllF ( 205050 )
      Big Brother knows if you prefer Pepsi or Coke, and he uses it to rape babies.
    • They have a special option if you don't want to use your fingerprints. You can have an 18 digit code (3 groups of 6) imprinted on your forehead or on the back of your right hand.
    • it's another way for big brother to watch you.

      Sure, because there isn't a paper trail for any credit card or check purchase you've ever made. I don't think homeland security's gonna come knocking on your door because you exceeded your pepsi quota for the week, but if this technology is expanded to other things (which it will be), this is a nice convenient way of payment that may actually cut down on fraud. It's harder to steal someone's face and fingerprint than their credit card. (read: harder, not i
      • Sure, because there isn't a paper trail for any credit card or check purchase you've ever made.

        I carry $50 or so on me at all times and use it to pay for things. No paper trail unless it's (a) an expensive item or (b) bought for work, in which case I *want* a paper trail for IRS reasons.


    • big brother can watch you regardless of how you buy your soda(or whatever)
      thats not the problem, the problem is what happens if your finger prints get compromisd?
    • Paying for stuff via your hand or forehead is rekoned to the Mark of the Beast which damns you to Hell. Revelation 13:16 The beast forced all the people, small and great, rich and poor, slave and free, to have a mark placed onm their right hands or on their foreheads. 13:17 No one could buy or sell unless he had this mark, that is the beast's name or the number that stands for his name.

      Now, I must confess that while I know God exists, I do not know the man's name that stands for 666, nor do I think that
  • Hello! Thank you for using soda vision! You have ingested: 250 grams of sugar today, 1,800 grams of sugar this week, and 7,212 grams this month for a grand total of 15.9 lbs! Congratulations, you are a candidate for TYPE A Diabetes!
    • You mean type 1, IDDM (insulin dependent), or juvenile diabetes, I presume?

      It would actually cause type 2 (NIDDM (non-insulin dependent), diabetes of maturity) diabetes, if you believe some authors.

      Type 1 (which is what I think you mean by type A) is destruction of pancreatic islet cells and reduction in insulin production. Type 2 is 'insulin resistant', where the body can produce insulin but cells don't respond to it the way they should, with one hypothesis being that chronic overconsumption of carbohydrat
  • imagine... (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by beens ( 96257 )
    a beowulf cluster of these.
  • by code shady ( 637051 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @06:51PM (#15828302) Homepage
    They say here that they used a webcam to do the facial recognition.
    I haven't RTFA yet so I'm not sure which brand or model they use, but would the average webcam provide a high enough resolution to do effective facial recognition?

    Would it be possible to write a simple hack that uses the built in camera on a macbook to do the same kind of thing?

    Any facial recognitiion experts out there care to weigh in?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      me and a buddy wrote a program a few years back for facial recognition on a webcam. only thing that screwed it up was chicks with too much make-up.
  • Tom looks like the unemployed american trying to drink a soda payed with food stamps

    Omir looks like the higly payed indian engineer that will revolutionize the industry lol
  • by pHatidic ( 163975 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @07:08PM (#15828365)
    Combining biometrics makes identification less accurate. Using both face recognition and a finger print scan would be less accurate than using either alone. For a source, see John Daugman's webpage [cam.ac.uk]. He is the one who invented the algorithm that modern iris scanners use.

    Anyway, methinks some investors are being taken for a ride here.
    • That is a nice little bit of math on the web page you link to, but you overlook an important aspect. That paper defines "error rate = false positives + false negatives", and shows that layered testing increases the total error rate. But the paper itself points out that layering can decrease one of those terms, and, depending on your application, the bad-ness of each term can be very different. For example, in return for preventing the very bad situation of a thief getting to my money (false positive id), I
    • Daugman's analysis assumes each biometric test produces a single bit of information: pass or fail. That assumption makes it possible for him to reason in the abstract about combining tests, and moreover, to treat exhaustively the 2 possible ways of doing so (logical and, logical or). Even so, his result has 2 qualifications: "If the two biometric tests differ significantly in their power, and each operates at its own cross-over point, then combining them gives significantly worse performance than relying so
    • I read that web page, and it's completely correct, but only under its ridiculously restrictive assumptions about the nature of the tests and how they can be combined.

      A standard Bayesian network combining the results of tests which have continuous (rather than boolean) outputs, something which many algorithms for facial recognition, fingerprints, etc, will, on average, give strictly better results than the use of either tests alone - this is not only simple to prove, but the basis of many modern classifica
  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @07:19PM (#15828411)
    > And yes, it runs Linux.

    Fortunately they haven't been able to find a driver for the anal probe.
  • What would you like to drink today ?!

    Oh, I see: you're a coca cola man, I see it in your fingerprint !

    Or... wait... you like pepsi too, don't you ?!

    Wow... I really feel great here ! As a matter of fact, I feel so great that I'll dispense you your drink for free !

    Weeeh !
  • I have to worry about somebody cutting my head off, and not just my finger ...
  • welcome out Linux running soda machine overlords.
    • The sad thing is I typed "out" instead of "our" because I was rushing to get the joke in first. Must get a life, must get a life... Can I order it online, maybe with some jolt to go?
  • great soda machine more secure than diebold as if casino machines weren't enough
  • I wonder if:

    A) Michael Okuda gets free sodas, and

    B) Have the Paramount lawyers seen this yet?

    Count down to sending of C&D notices in 3, 2, 1....

  • As long as it doesn't try to give me something that is "almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea"...
  • Ugh, i hate myself for saying it but....
    Is it possible to beef up the graffics subsystem and install Vista BETA on it???
  • No more fake IDs. In Loco Parentis without people. Knows to not dispense on Sundays until the churches have closed.

    Talks to Diebold machines on voting days to comply with State laws. Switches you to light beer after the first six.

    Cuts you off after a few too many, to keep underage students from cutting off older, sleeping roommates' fingers.

  • I see this design could have some uses with the distribution of medication and supplies [ti.com] in hospitals. It could allow the medical staff greater security to the possibility of someone using their password to steal narcotics, etc.
  • And it allows the diet police to KEEP you from GETTING that Pepsi that you so desperately want, too!

    This thing has the capability of monitoring WHO is using it, WHAT they are buying, and, with very little hassle on the server end, running a database of "healthy/NOT healthy" purchases and locking a user out who has too many "Not Healthy" buys on his or her record. Given the move towards lack of choice in school lunches - how long will it be before companies and even grogery stores start using this technolog
  • 1. One to many fingerprint matching algorithm.
    2. One to many facial matching algorithm.
    3. Fingerprint sensor driver. (In linux no less)
    4. Algorythms to detect fake fingers and faces.
    5. Backend storage systems for all of the data

    Unless you are working for a company that develops these systems, there's not much information out there.

    Immensly useful research in a fun application.
  • Back when I started using the internet (1993), I thought it was really cool that you could
    % finger coke@cs.wisc.edu
    and see if the vending machine was on.

    Now I can
    % finger @coke.cs.ucsd.edu
    and see who's on the vending machine.
  • that vending machine in the engineering student lounge, that chunked out sodas in 10 ounce bottles, is gone? Professor Lugananni must be VERY upset. :)

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker