Facebook Twitter

LOCAL INVENTORS’ DEVICE DOUBLES THE PLEASURE

SHARE LOCAL INVENTORS’ DEVICE DOUBLES THE PLEASURE

Vending machines are typically pretty unimaginative: You put some money in and, if you're lucky, some junk food comes out.

But Van Peery and Dale Emery have an idea they hope will revolutionize the whole business. It's the vending machine as entertainment: Put some money in and watch your junk food take a fantastic voyage before it reaches its destination.Their first machine is the Gumball Gizmo, a contraption that takes a piece of bubble gum on a 45-second Rube Goldbergian odyssey. A prototype has been at Trolley Square since October 1993. Now Peery and Emery are ready to go nationwide.

At Bixworks, their small manufacturing plant in Lehi, they're busy assembling mass-produced versions of the frenetic gumball machine, which will be distributed by a company in Wisconsin.

The inventors will deliver their first machines this fall. Within a year, says Emery, Bixworks hopes to be producing about 100 Gumball Gizmos a month.

The Gizmo sends an orb of bubblegum on a mechanical adventure around spirals and ramps, through trap doors and down a moving staircase. The ride costs a quarter, and although you only get about a dime's worth of gum, the Gizmo's inventors say the average gum chewer is willing to pay the extra change, and spend the extra time, for the chance to watch the gumball make its wacky journey.

"People love to be entertained and a quarter isn't too much," says Emery, who adds that the Trolley Square Gumball Gizmo grosses about $1,000 a month, compared to about $90 a year for a standard vending machine.

Both Emery and Peery have been inventing and building one thing or another since they were kids, although they didn't always have the money to follow through (Peery thought of an idea very much like Roller Blades 40 years ago when he was a farm boy in Spring Lake, Utah.)

Emery built a precursor to the Gumball Gizmo when he was a teenager in Erie, Pa. His "Kineticon" - which he kept under a sheet at first so his family wouldn't make fun of it - included a toy train, a fountain and traveling marbles. In 1983, Emery showed the contraption to Peery, operations manager at Trolley Square, who installed the machine and also offered Emery a job. Emery later worked as an engineer's technician at the University of Utah's Center for Engineering Design, building robots and micromotors.

Emery and Peery built the original Gumball Gizmo in their garages in their spare time. Their next project is Gumball Gizmo II. But "the gumball machine is only the start," says Peery. The inventors have a half dozen more designs for kinetic vending machines and kinetic art. Coming soon, they hope, to a mall near you.