Swap-O-Matic: An Automat With Recycling In Mind

The Swap-O-Matic is vending machine built for recycling, not consuming. Instead of feeding money into the machine, you can get an item out of the machine by swapping it for something you don’t need anymore. It’s a great concept with a great retro design, probably influenced by the age of the automat.

[Lina Fenequito] and [Rick Cassidy] built the Swap-O-Matic around the time [Lina] was getting her MFA. The build was in Wired in 2005, but the project has been updated since then and has a new home at LaunchPad in Brooklyn, NY. The first version used a separate computer next to the machine that gave out combinations to locks on the doors. It looks like the new version has been improved with an integrated touchscreen and computer-activated locks leaving [Lina] and [Rick] with a very clean build.

It’s a great idea if you have a relatively homogeneous population with similar interests, so we expect to see some of these popping up at a few hackerspaces. Check out the Swap-O-Matic promo video after the break.


16 thoughts on “Swap-O-Matic: An Automat With Recycling In Mind

  1. Save the earth… no.
    You save the earth by recycling disposable plastic, CCFLs, and the like.

    It’s more like a micro thrift store with just the junk. It also requires trust. People as a whole are untrustworthy.

    It’s just a trendy thing with a retro style that Starbucks and Apple users would use.

    1. Nicely done, but unfortunately I have to agree with the above statement.

      The earth will save itself … once we are all gone. But it doesn’t hurt to try during our process of elimination.

    2. Actualy, its been shown many,many times that the more trust you put in people, the more they live upto it.
      People are actualy more likely to steal from locked boxs then opened ones.

      Theres always a group that will steal either way, but they are not “most people”. The key is to not have products that generaly appeal to the random (minority) criminal.

  2. Recycling items that still have useable life has to be better than recycling for recovering raw maters, but both are good. As portrayed the swap-O-matic does neither, and can’t. No mention how it pays for itself, without making assumptions, or I missed it. In the event it can, and also make some money exchanging what it can, it might have a future and keep crap out of the land fills. Ones person’s crap is another’s fertilizer.

  3. Come on guys, less hate, more love for our hacker brethren. t&p, let’s try to keep our comments constructive in nature, and not just fuel for a flamewar. On topic, I think this is a great idea, and the retro-ness reminded me of the Fallout series. I think this would be a very interesting machine to have popping up, and I would gladly trade in some of my unwanteds.

  4. Whats going to happen when someone takes all good stuff and all that’s left is junk. Its going to look like the fridge at by parents house when I was in high school. It should have a notice that has a minimum dollar amount value, or a specific category (electrical, art, toys? I don’t think I would use it for toys – have you seen the garbage at good will.

    1. I thought the same thing as you but then saw the comment above in regard to a hackerspace. It would be awesome if you just put in random machinery/tools/items you don’t want or need anymore in there and since other people in the hackerspace are of the same mind and don’t want to look like a jackass in front of the rest of the group, they will probably stay honest and put in something else when then take. I’m not sure this would work in some sort of big place where people don’t know each other but I would think that it would work in a community where it matters what others think of you.

      1. However no personal information that the public can see is not required to use this. So no group pressure in in play here. Other than being in a public place. Often that’s no promise of self policing, even in small communities.

  5. You need to get a credit when someone takes an item you placed. Otherwise, you can get a credit for placing garbage. The same should be true for swapping. The problem, then, becomes getting your first credit.

    Also, where does the money come from? There’s the initial cost of buying the machine. Then, there will be maintenance costs. It’s not like the proprietor can get 10% of each swap.

    I can only really see this as an open-source hardware project that’s just distributed as plans or sold as a kit.

  6. I imagine if there is any profit to be made it would come from the company selling credits to people who “need a couple extra”.

    Wouldn’t it be epic to have a 3d scan and item recognition database, with a weighing scale to ensure that an item of value was placed inside, and creds given then based on the value of the piece? This could make an awesome lunch machine at work for people who want to mix things up a bit…

  7. I like the idea, it reminds me of the trading posts in the game A Small Favor. The idea of a machine that can buy as well as sell is very interesting, though I’m not sure that we can trust a machine to validate the worth of anything other than energy. Relying on trust and the reputation of an email account is risky, but there’s not much to lose in the experiment. I agree that putting an emphasis on saving the Earth detracts from the appeal, but I’ve certainly seen worse.

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