Why I love vending machines

There aren’t many things that get me really excited. I’m a generally happy person, easily pleased and convivial in social situations, but I’m talking about things that get me reeeally excited. Think 14 year old girl backstage at a Justin Timberlake concert and you’ll getting somewhere close to what I was thinking.

But vending machines (of all things) do get me excited, especially odd and unusual ones. I don’t know why. I find them magical. There’s something tantalising about the glass screen. It makes everything look shiny and new. I see the same packet of Nacho Cheese Doritos I’ve passed 1,000,000 times in Sainbury’s trapped in that steel box and they seem so much more appealing (maybe I have a hero complex and must save everything, even tortilla chips?). I don’t know why it intrigues but I’m the kind of person that enjoys being bewildered.

Japanese vending machine dispenses QR codes that recipients can use to download books to their E-reader (via Digital Reader)

Whenever I contemplate the subject I am reminded of Rory Sutherland’s TED Talk and the impact of perceptions. My leading theory is that vending machines work in the same way that a beefed up bouncer and a velvet rope does at a night club. Making it seem (more) forbidden or exclusive.

I think a lot of people would question my fascination. VM’s don’t really do… well, anything. They’re a little bit unnecessary. But not a lot of things besides H2O and good ol’ oxygen are necessary. Everything else is there to add colour to life and make it a bit interesting.

Cupcake Vending Machine

Sprinkles Bakery in Beverly Hills has made a vending machine that dispenses cupcakes so you get your fix of sugary goodness 24/7 (via Design Boom)

Beyond sheer excitement I think they play an important part in my life. Seriously. I am one of 3 billion people growing up in the western world and this more-things-faster culture we’re swirling around in. Admittedly, some things – such as filling out tax forms and getting vaccinations – do need speeding up but (in my naive optimism) I think that that’s missing an opportunity. Everything now seems to be about streamlining and immediacy, but that takes away the magic.

I like the magic.

Science says the magic is good too. According to happiness psychologists anticipation for things leads to greater happiness. True story. Look, it’s written here, ok? Schooled.

One of my favourites machines is this device from South Africa. Rather sweetly named Tweet for Sweets, this vending machine gave out sweets when passerbys tweeted something that made them smile with the hashtag #etiossmile. The machine was constructed from discarded and secondhand objects, and created a whimsical obstacle course for the absconding treat. An nice ‘n’ easy way to make people smile. Approved.

As far as branded machines go, I find this machine from Deloittes most curious. The tyrannous machine issues challenges to the public in an investigation into how far they will go for fantastic Delites. Apart from showing the potential fun I could have as a cruel dictator, it also gave out some good food in exchange for (mostly) fun participation.

Shimmying away from branded machines, Swap-O-Matic is a fun exchange vending machine where people can trade items they don’t want with other people’s unloved possessions. To play, you just insert your teddy/novelty lamp/giant sunflower into one compartment and remove an item from another. Simples. While swapping has a warm gift-giving vide, I consider it a form of recycling (“Hooray” says the environment) and that’s lovely too.



Star Players

Some things just go together –

Bread and Butter,

Ying and yang,

Batman and Robin,

but none more so than alcohol and gambling. The vice brothers often party together hand-in-hand on a Saturday night as people (mostly men) give in to their dark sides.

Heineken have decided to blend the two together, quite literally, by creating a branded mobile game.

Star Player allows it users to compete against each other in predicting what’s going to happen next in any match that’s occurring on television. The idea is genius, and a great way of combing social media and entertainment with the brand. What’s more. It actually looks like fun, as opposed a lot of branded games which focus on the branding before enjoyment, with complete disregard for the purpose of the application.

With the realisation that men watch most football matches in the pub, and all almost all with friends and some variety of beer, this app acts very similarly to a point of sale advertisement and strongly reinforces the brand values.

I can’t wait to try it. Too bad I’ll have to wait until next season.

Just Add Sunshine

The world is one giant step closer to transforming into an episode of Glee.

Rather poetically, this Adidas spot has quite a lot in common with the US musicom. Glee takes a great song and simply adds a little something to make it more fun and well… sunshiney. And everyone enjoys sunshine.

Surely inspired by this, when Wieden and Kennedy made Nike Musical Shoes in Japan (aka this):

welcome to optimism: Nike music shoe by Wieden + Kennedy Tokyo

… Adidas came along and did the exact same thing with their MEGALIZER (sounds like a transformer, doesn’t it?). Points for originality: 0. They did, however, do something Nike didn’t. Make it applicable. Nike just dropped a 95lb bomb of cool in our laps and said, ‘there you go’ and no-one really knew what to do with it. Adidas have gone the extra mile and showed us something inspiring, outside of the laboratory. They took the idea and made it universal.

They Gleed™ it up.

Unbelievable Teckers

Technology is amazing.

The more I learn about it, the more I’m impressed. I’ve been lucky enough while I’ve been in London to get a much better look at some of the tech thats around at the moment. This is a collection of the things I’ve come across that I’d like to share:

Google Japan

This isn’t really about the technology itself but the application of it. I think it’s a really innovative and fun use of Google to launch the service in Japan, and really puts the imagination of Wieden + Kennedy on display.


Coca Cola iPhone App

I have some issues with Coke (I’m a human being after all) but this is about the app rather than them. It turns your iPhone into a snow globe. I love this! It’s exactly the simple, festive and interactive app that makes me want an iPhone despite my lack of funds or necessity for one.

*Apologies for the video. It was the only one I could find that actually showed what the app is.

Google Tv

Google again. This is the direction that technology is heading- all combining to form one single platform. Google Tv combines the internet with Tv allowing you to use both simultaneously. You can search for shows and movies online and then watch them, all on your tv screen. Not sure which movie to watch? Look at the reviews before you start watching. It’s the ultimate technological indulgence that will become standard before we know it.

Note to self: It’s all progressing as I planned (Mwah aha ha ha).

Next I think it will consume social media and combine that world with media.


My personal favourite piece of technology I’ve found, even though it’s only out in Japan at the moment. It’s an iPhone app that combines GPS, motion sensors and augmented reality. The objective is to track, collect and trade virtual butterflies, each of which represents a coupon for a particular store in the area. You have to find a butterfly on the GPS map, mosey on down to it’s location and then, using the camera, ‘catch’ the butterfly in your net. Each butterfly is beautifully designed according to it’s location and it’s one the few ideas recently that combine fun with function, helping to increase retail output in an uncertain Japanese economy.

Word Lens

Like iButterfly, Word Lens is an app for iPhone. Using the camera it automatically and instantly translates signs and other information on the screen. How useful is that? I have no real idea how it works but I think it’s a real revelation in communications.