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Meanwhile in Japan: Your new best pal is a vending machine

Chirpy mobile rewards game or grim future?

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Vid Almost a million vending machines in Japan will be ready to start a personal relationship with shoppers, rewarding regulars with weather checks and even remembering their birthdays.

Punters can check into the machines using a camera-equipped phone to snap a QR code and assign an avatar to that machine. Check in often enough and you can accessorise that avatar with shoes and hats, and your favourite machine will send you chatty updates about the weather and suchlike. Check in on Christmas day and you'll get a special badge denoting you as someone who has no real friends with whom to spend the festive season.

The "Quest for Happiness" QR codes have already been affixed to 400,000 Coca-Cola machines, a number that will more than double by March next year according to the Japanese-speaking Penn-Olson blog.

Adventurers embarking on the quest can get (on-screen) badges for checking into machines around Japan, and checking in every lunchtime gets one a "lunchtime" badge and an expanding waistline.

This is all part of the much-heralded process of "gamification", the idea being that everything can be turned into a game so eventually we'll all just walk though our lives competing endlessly against each other for ephemeral rewards flashed up on our computer screens. ®

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