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Twitter activated vending machine makes waves

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19 June 2012

Robo-ice-teashop in South Africa

What if you could Tweet and a vending machine dispenses a drink? That’s exactly the set-up we just built with Cow Africa, an agency based in Cape Town South Africa.*


We have built several Twitter apps over the last two years, but this is the first time we built an application that interfaces with the  physical world. Was it hard? Not really. RAAK’s chief techie Adriaan Pelzer is a qualified electronic engineer. So watch this space for some more manifestations of social media in the ‘real’ world.

* The project was for BOS, a South African ice tea brand that’s known for its innovative approach to marketing.

** The Bot that powers Bev – as the Vending machine is called – can be location enabled. In other words one can set it to recognise if the the person sending the Tweet is standing next to Bev before dispensing. It also has a web based interface where the LED screen’s responses can be pre-programmed.

Bev the Vending Machine that works with a Tweet in a SA Shopping Mall

Bev has already been featured in a number of publications, including Forbes and the BBC.

So, exactly how does Bev work?

She displays a preconfigured hashtag on her front panel, along with some taunts at passers-by to tweet something with the hashtag in it. At the same time, Bev connects to the Twitter Streaming API, and listens for tweets with the displayed hashtag. When she sees one, she dispenses a refreshing ice tea, and send the person who sent the tweet a friendly message!

For more details, watch the “making of” video below:

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