Last Updated Jul 13, 2010 2:11 PM EDT
Here's how the magical wine machine works:
- Slide the driver's license into the machine
- Look into the attached camera
- A person in a remote location verifies the face with the ID
- Blow into a breathalyzer
- Buy as much wine as desired
These new automats aren't really automats, though. There's actually a camera that connects to a remote center. At the other end is a correspondent that will confirm the purchaser's age. In other words, the alcohol purchase must still be approved by a human on the other end every time.
Here are some alternatives:
- Facial recognition software: Why not have the potential purchaser stand in front of the camera and have facial recognition software confirm his or her identity based on the license picture? The human interaction is not only wasted resources, but looks like a passive aggressive way to confirm sobriety -- something that is supposedly done by the breathalyzer. Facial recognition isn't perfect, but it is a much more reasonable solution for the vending machines than a person sitting on the other end of a camera.
- Renovate the program: Infamous for its streetside beer vending machines, Japan now gives out magnetic strips that, when placed on IDs, allows customers to confirm their identity. The strips are placed on the ID after age has been confirmed. Pennsylvania has spent money on the machines, but hasn't come up with an elegant solution to identity.
- Just change the law: Other states allow sales of wine -- not to mention hard liquor -- in grocery stores. They have come up with other solutions, like not selling through groceries on the weekend or after a certain hour.
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