Hand a child an ice cream you'll generally be rewarded with a beaming smile, but with this new interactive vending machine, it's the smile that gets rewarded – with a free ice cream. Created for Unilever, the world’s biggest ice cream manufacturer, the first ever smile-activated ice cream vending machine combines face-recognition technology to measure a person’s grin and take a photo that can be uploaded to Facebook thanks to the machine’s built-in 3G capability.

Created by SapientNitro for Unilever, whose portfolio of ice cream brands include Wall’s, Ben and Jerry’s, Good Humor, Breyers and Klondike, the “Share Happy” branded interactive vending machine attracts passers by placing their heads on cartoon bodies on the large touchscreen display that covers the front of the unit. Once you're drawn in, it prompts you for a big smile and the "smile-o-meter" measures your grin and tells you how happy you are.

As well as determining the person’s emotion, the face recognition technology is used to determine the person’s age and gender – not much potential for causing offense there! Although the fact the machine seems to estimate a person’s age with a generous margin of error should help reduce the risk of any hurt feelings.

Once the person is deemed happy enough on the “smile-o-meter” a photo is taken and, with the person’s permission, uploaded onto Facebook via 3G. The consumer can then pick out their free ice cream using the vending machine’s touchscreen interface.

SapientNitro developed the graphic language, interface design and the animation style for the vending machine, while provided the screen and Sanden Vendo supplied the vending machine.

The smile-activated ice cream vending machine made its first public appearance in May 2010 at the Rock in Rio festival in Lisbon, Portugal and was recently unveiled to the global advertising community in Cannes, France. It will roll out into high-traffic consumer locations like shopping malls across the globe over the next 18 months.

The promotional video can be seen here.