Snapchat maker Snap is disrupting the way to get consumer electronics into users’ hands, choosing to distribute its new wearable, Spectacles, using pop-up vending machines.
The machines, which roughly resemble a minion, have captured the imagination of consumers, as has the sales method.
The company periodically offers up a map of where the vending machines spring up; and it seems a cottage industry has sprung up keeping track of the temporary locations.
The machines first appeared a week ago on Venice Beach in California, and have since been randomly spotted in various US states from west to east – and in-between.
They are equipped to dispense around 200 pairs of Snap’s Spectacles product – which is effectively a pair of sunglasses equipped with a tiny video camera that sends footage straight to Snapchat.
Hundreds of people have queued for their chance to own a pair of the US$130 ($176) sunglasses. Those that miss out – and can’t get to another pop-up – could find themselves bidding for a pair on eBay, where prices have allegedly hit $1000.
One reason the sunglasses are proving so popular is that Snap has created a unique experience to buy them.
The vending machine uses technology that Snap bought from selfie animation firm Looksery to allow the buyer to see on a screen how the different sunglasses will look on their face prior to purchase.
Swipe a card for payment and the sunglasses are yours. The receipt, printed on rainbow paper, comes with an easter egg: a hidden message in binary code.
“Buying Spectacles is designed to be a fun, very public theatrical experience,” Forbes said.
“This ‘scavenger hunt’ way of marketing will create constrained supply with an ‘I just won the lottery effect’ when tastemakers finally get their hands on one.”
USA Today noted that potential buyers are given “precious little notice” of the arrival of a vending machine in their area. Writer Ed Baig said that his “desire to own a pair grew exponentially the longer that I waited.”
“I must admit a certain fascination with getting something that other people don’t have yet,” he said.
In a detailed review, The Verge said it believed the sunglasses justified the effort to get them, and it also praised Snap’s design, including the use of a light to signify when they were recording – something the reviewer believed could reduce distrust in wearers.
“One of the many reasons that [Snap] chose to slowly roll these out — besides just to generate hype — is to carefully gauge how people to react to the omnipresence of cameras in social settings,” The Verge noted.
“[They’re] like a bizarro version of the Google Glass beta: a limited rollout, but done in a way that fosters fascination — and hopefully some critical thought — instead of just revulsion.
“Those who can get their hands on [them will] be the first to take a crack at establishing the social norms that surround this kind of photography, and they’ll also be the first to have a say in whether it succeeds or fails.
“The rest of us will have to wait — though maybe not long. If we’ve learned anything from the battles Snap has been waging with the likes of Instagram and Facebook, it’s that Silicon Valley isn’t above copying a great idea.”
There's no official word on if and when the Spectacles might be sold in Australia. Some Australians aren't waiting, however, offering to pay for someone to fly a pair out here.