Push a Button, Get a Mountain Bike

How Ampco Grafix and Tourism British Columbia created this unique oversized vending machine.

Big Picture

When it comes to vending machines, the lure of a greasy bag of potato chips or a bubbly soda is usually enough to pull us in. But, Tourism British Columbia in Canada upped the vending ante by creating a machine whose offerings put the typical snack options to shame: Installed in San Francisco’s Justin Herman Plaza, the 10 x 14-foot BC Moments Machine – designed to encourage passersby to journey north to experience the Canadian province – would dispense real, actual-sized travel- and vacation-related equipment such as mountain bikes, golf clubs, surfboards, and more over the course of three days.

To create the vending machine as part of the “100 BC Moments” cross-media campaign, Tourism BC teamed up with production agency The Media Merchants (TMM), Citizen Optimum PR, and print provider Ampco Grafix (www.ampcografix.com).

“We have an ongoing relationship with TMM as its print supplier, so they approached us to partner with them for the graphic components of the machine,” says Jane Rogers, Ampco’s marketing specialist.

Optimum PR provided print-ready design work for the graphics, as well as the digital content; TMM then assembled the digital component. TMM’s technical team had to produce from scratch the interactive system that drives the BC Moments Machine due to the size of the assets being dispensed, as well as the flow of the video and animation content presented during its operation, says TMM technical director Anthony Diehl.

“From a technical standpoint, we had to develop a way to synchronize messaging across multiple screens, fit a massive projector into a very tight space, and then have enough room to fit the items inside,” adds Diehl. “We had a project that potentially needed a lot of hardware and a lot of space, but had to fit it into a 9 x 10 x 14-foot area, along with kayaks, surfboards, bikes, and dozens of other mementos.”

The solution involved relying on a single sophisticated production server to power four screens: a 22-inch touch screen, a 22-inch messaging screen, a 6 x 8-foot main display, and an internal admin screen. The system also features real-time inventory management to prevent users from selecting out-of-stock items, which was developed using the Open Frameworks toolkit for creative coding. For maximum punch on its vending display in such a tight enclosure, a Christie Roadster S+2 20K projector and a custom mirror system that reflects imagery onto the external screen was put into place.

Meanwhile, Ampco prepared the wrap that would add aesthetics and the marketing message to the machine’s exterior. Using an EFI Vutek 3360 printer, Ampco output the graphics for the oversized machine onto 3M Controltac 180CV3-10 and added a 3M Scotchcal 8520 matte laminate. “Because this was a completely unique concept, we involved our engineering team from the early stages in the project to ensure that there were no concerns in uniting the graphics with the digital component. Our engineering team produced detailed drawings, which ensured no issues arose during the production or installation of the graphic component,” says Rogers.

With the vending machine built, the Ampco installation team installed the graphics within a single afternoon.


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