Gumball machine delivers ebooks and games to your phone

Instead of rock-hard bubble gum that loses its flavor after 2 minutes, this gumball machine delivers apps and games directly to your smartphone.

The communications protocol used by this app-delivering gumball machine isn’t bluetooth or WiFi but near field communication. This protocol allows for a point-to-point network between the app dispenser and a phone to deliver games, music, videos, and ebooks to any compatible portable device.

The hardware for the gumball machine is a Galaxy Tab, an Adafruit NFC shield, two Arduinos, and a few switches and other components stuffed into an old gumball machine. To get purchase an app, just put a quarter or two in the machine, turn the crank, and put your phone up against the dispenser. Through the magic of near field communications, you phone or tablet receives whatever media you purchased.

Near field communication has been a standard for a while, but hasn’t been available in most phones. With oracles of Apple speculating the upcoming iPhone will have NFC capability other phone manufacturers are sure to pick up the tech. Very cool project, and we can’t wait to see some truly home-brew versions of this build.

Vidia after the break.


  1. Isaac says:

    As cool as this is, it would have been cooler if it dispensed gumball shaped NFC tags :P

  2. henry says:

    so a physical device designed to be used with a product that hasn’t actually been mainstream manufactured yet. Plus all devices have been moving towards a cloud based application store. clever

  3. joenn says:


    It could easily be made to support non-NFC devices by also displaying a QR code that contains a single use direct URL to the purchased good.

  4. NXTreme says:

    “Near field communication has been a standard for a while, but hasn’t been available in most phones. With oracles of Apple speculating the upcoming iPhone will have NFC capability other phone manufacturers are sure to pick up the tech.”

    It doesn’t happen often on HAD, but sounds very much like an Apple fanboy speaking. Normally doesn’t bother me, but you may as well get it right when you can. NFC has been available in at least a couple smart phones since early 2011. Since early 2012 almost every middle to high end smartphone out there (aside from the iPhone, of course) has had NFC built in. Apple is following, not leading, in this case!

  5. MS3FGX says:

    I don’t really understand the goal of this project. You can’t actually transfer an application over NFC, much less a movie. All you can do is send the other device a link to where they can download said content (either through the official marketplace of your smartphone OS of choice, or regular HTTP).

    So for 50 cents it gives me, what? A link to an app I have to then subsequently purchase in the Play Store? Or worse, for 50 cents it gives me a link to a free app I could have gotten otherwise?

    If the idea is that this machine is attached to some kind of third party market, and that my 50 cents really does represent the payment for content, then how is authentication handled? How does the system know which device corresponds to the person who put the money in?

    I just can’t wrap my mind around how this could work in the real world.

  6. Chris says:

    hey MS3FGX,

    the concept is a 2 day protoype project to create awareness for the NFC technology within the agency (this is where the gumball machine is mounted). Our approach was to deliver special content that can´t be downloaded with in an app or play store. We tried to keep the inital random concept (you never know what you get), Special Sneak Preview movie Trialer, a voucher for lunch, an open Briefing etc.

    Hope that helps to understand the project better.

  7. Prithiviraj says:

    Hey there – Can you guys explain the internals of this project,

    1. How the user can choose a digital merchandise
    2. Whats the average size of the digital merchandise(songs/Apps) in bytes
    3. So the NFC peer to peer works between the NFC shield + Arduino and the users Phone to transfer the digital merchandise
    4. Why you need 2 Arduino controllers?
    5. What kind of APP you have for Android phones

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