Razorfish has done it: created a machine that combines the technology that most fascinates ECN editors—vending machines—with the type of technology that receives the most frustration from the ECN editorial staff—nostalgic and useless. Using Near Field Communication (NFC), Razorfish has created a Gumball machine with a twist. Rather than dispensing a piece of gum that loses its flavor and elasticity in seconds, this Gumball machine gives users a tiny piece of digital technology.
The machine is relatively simplistic; it uses a Samsung Galaxy tablet, two microcontrollers, and an NFC sensor. The steps to purchase some digital delights are also uncomplicated: make a selection, insert a quarter, turn the slot, and hold your phone up to the dispensing flap. The phone immediately downloads the app, ebook, film, song, or coupon selected.
My first impression of these saccharine machines is that they are ridiculous and unnecessary, hardly befitting Razorfish’s motto “Solutions to Hard Problems”. While the machines are probably fun to use and very adorable, it is still unknown whether they are dispensing information that would be free already or whether users can pay a higher price for more expensive downloads.
If, in fact, users can download information at varying price points, the NFC Gumball machines may actually be pretty useful. While I can easily download songs, books, and apps to my phone with a few swipes of my finger, the swipes to my credit card quickly add up. Using physical money for downloads would most likely curtail my digital desires.