If the The National Automatic Merchandising Association Show at Navy Pier is a look at the future of snacking, we may be well on our way to the vision of an obese, chairbound humanity imagined in Pixar's Wall-E.
The coolest technology at the show is the Samsung/Kraft/Crane Vending Diji-touch touch-screen vending machines. They allow you to scroll digital representations of salt- & chocolate-based snacks with your fingertips, iPhone-style. The experience is like a video game that feeds you.
The Diji-touch machines will be test marketed in the Northeast part of the country later this year, and are likely to go into full production, landing on college campuses and airports in the next year.
If caffeine and sugar in solid form isn't your bag, take heart: Quicker, more efficient coffee delivery was also a hot topic at the show.
"Employers are providing gourmet coffee to keep workers happy and to keep them in the office," said Jackie Clark, spokesperson for NAMA "They won't spend time out of office and waiting in line."
Kraft, Starbucks, Kuerig and Green Mountain, and others, all showed off in office coffee vending with high end panache.
One of the most fun machines is a cotton candy vendor. It makes the cotton candy while you watch, and it tastes delicious.
Most of the machines at the expo still take -- or reject -- your crinkled up dollar bills the old fashioned way, but nearly all of the machines have new-fangled credit card technology for those of us who don't carry cash.