Japanese cig-machines' age verification cameras can be tricked by magazine photos

Jacob sez, "Some of the cigarette vending machines in Japan use a camera to do age verification. They can be tricked by holding up something so simple as a photograph from a magazine. Pwned."

When the reporter went to check out the new age-verifying machines after they were introduced in the Osaka area in June, he soon discovered that the machines equipped with face-recognition cameras would let him buy cigarettes when he held up a 15-centimeter (6-in) wide magazine photo of a man who looked to be in his 50s.

The reporter also went to Kobe, where different face recognition hardware is being used. There, he bought cigarettes using an 8-centimeter (3-in) wide magazine photo of a female celebrity in her 30s. He also reportedly tried to use a 3-centimeter (1-in) wide photo, but the machines rejected it.

Link (Thanks, Jacob!)


  1. Banning smoking in McDonalds here would certainly go a long way towards curbing underage smoking.

  2. Cigarette and alcohol vending mahcines are pretty common over here, I have a handfull within a 10 minute walk from my apt.
    And yet the Japanese STILL have the longest lifespan of any developed country.

  3. To anyone who has had even a tiny bit to do with AI, pattern recognition and computer vision in particular, this should come as no surprise at all.

    And I think the vending machine operators are fine with that – they don’t care much who they sell coffin nails to, as long as they have money.

    I’m guessing that a face drawn in marker on an orange would fool these machines.

  4. I agree with Spazzm: any system that worked effectively would be cutting off a major revenue stream for Big Japanese Tobacco. best to be seen to do the right thing, collect the money and then blame technology when it doesn’t work.

    Also, after all the years i’ve lived in Japan i’ve yet to see a single public awareness or govt. health campaign that suggests smoking is in any way bad for your health.

  5. What won’t the Japanese sell out of vending machines? Also I could be wrong but I find it hard to believe that there is such a thing as “Big Japanese Tobacco”. I would think that most of it is imported and furthermore, imported from the US.

  6. …draws lines under eyes, false beards, carrys picture of John Wayne at all times etc…

  7. I would think that most of it is imported and furthermore, imported from the US.

    While the sentiment that the US is the root of all evil certainly resonates with this humble commenter, the truth may be that the Japanese get their nicotine fix from the largest tobacco producer in the world; the conveniently located People’s Republic of China, a.k.a. the Middle Kingdom, which produces more then five times more tobacco than the US. The Yanks are also outdone by India and Brazil.

    But please note that the figures have no reference, so they are almost certainly hornswoggle.

  8. This also works at late-night convenience stores in North America if the clerk is half-asleep or too hungover to care.

  9. Well Castan…Japan Tobacco is 50% owned by the Japanese gov’t…until 2004 or so it almost wholly owned by the gov’t.

    All those profits, not to mention the taxes…it’s like crack cocaine to the oxymoronically monikered Liberal Democratic Party overlords.

  10. Critical piece of missing information here: How old was the magazine the photo was taken from?

  11. #8, why would you have trouble believing there is Big Tobacco in Japan? Big, powerful, rich developed country that dominates a dozen global industries. They can certainly provide their own homegrown evil industries too. I don’t know your reference point, so I won’t comment on you personally, but I find way too many Westerners seem to look at Japan through a telescope and their own countries through a magnifying glass.

    Kind of related note: I still find it amusing/frightening when my wife goes to the ‘JT Hospital’ (read: Japan Tobacco) for a check up.

    Tobacco’s roots are deep here, no concept of sin or sin taxes on most harmful indulgences like alcohol or tobacco, and broad social acceptance. But I can’t help but dig the juxtaposition of a more group identity than the West combined with an almost libertarian do-what-you-want bent.

  12. Leaving aside the question of whether the US is the root of all evil (re #11 above), in the case of tobacco, America is certainly to blame. More specifically, American Indians, now called Native Americans. :)

    They introduced it to the invaders, who promptly abused it, and then spread the filthy habit to the rest of the world. I don’t understand why we can’t force all smokers to switch to snus, immediately.

  13. Dainel, could it be that many of us don’t know what ‘snus’ are? Or is? Or whatever?

    And at least one tribe of Indians had a prophecy that if tobacco was ever taken out of the sacred circle, disaster would follow (or something like that). It was a special ritual substance; they didn’t smoke it all the time, only on special occasions.

    Also they didn’t cure it with formaldehyde and do all the other toxic shit that cigarette companies do.

  14. @15: I tried a sample of snus a couple days ago. didn’t like it at all. plus, I doubt it would go good with Jameson.

  15. The rest of you probably don’t have this problem but I am growth deficient. I’m 23 and look less than 18. I get carded for R movies and M video games all the time. I’m just saying, just because some stupid software says I look young doesn’t mean I actually am. People can’t even get it right by looking at you. I don’t even smoke but at least now if I go to Japan and try to get cigarettes out of a vending machine I’ll be discriminated.

  16. Snus is some foul demon breed of tobacco product, akin to the Tomacco.

    Apologies for the Big Japanese Tobacco comment. Though in my defense it is imported from somewhere else.

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