In big cities like New York or LA there are a ton of little shops—sometimes called “bodegas” or “delis”—that sell late-night snacks, groceries, the occasional breakfast sandwich, beer, cigarettes, diapers, lotto tickets, tampons, and other miscellaneous items. They’re often the only independent business on gentrifying blocks full of banks and chains. Lots of them are owned and run by immigrants; many have cats lurking in them somewhere.
Now imagine if you could fulfill your basic corner store needs without ever leaving the comfort of your home or having the burden of interacting with a human being. Imagine if there were a machine in the lobby of your apartment building that could dispense the items normally sold at a corner store, rendering the traditional marketplace a thing of the past, and bringing us even closer to turning into those humans from WALL-E. That’s the idea for Bodega, a “concept” founded by two Google veterans that, as described by Fast Company, “sets up five-foot-wide pantry boxes filled with non-perishable items you might pick up at a convenience store.”
While Bodega’s big idea might be understood by technophobes as a “vending machine,” it is so much more than that. There’s also an app that allows “you to unlock the box and cameras powered with computer vision will register what you’ve picked up, automatically charging your credit card.”
If you’re like me, this “concept”—it’s not quite developed enough to be called an actual business—has you burning with rage for two reasons. The first and less important one is that every goddamn day the tech geniuses of Silicon Valley invent something that has existed for a long time, like back in June when Lyft’s new feature was basically a city bus. Today, we’ve been reintroduced to the vending machine. What mysteries will tomorrow hold? Uber, but for trains? LinkedIn, but for pets? A phone, but for making calls?