Popinator Fires Popcorn Into Your Mouth, Is Probably A PR Stunt


Popcorn Indiana, the same company that manufactures the bags of kettle corn you might find in a convenience store, posted a project on their website called The Popinator. It’s a device you fill with popcorn, turn on, and responds to the word, ‘pop’ by firing a piece of popcorn into your mouth. Details on this build are scant, most likely because The Popinator doesn’t operate exactly as described in the video demo for the Popinator project.

We’re going to call this build a figment of the imagination of one of Popcorn Indiana marketing drones, but the idea behind the project is actually fairly interesting. The idea of using voice recognition to determine when the word ‘pop’ is said to turn on the machine is very cool. Using time of flight to calculate where someone’s head is puts this build into a category of awesome we’ve rarely seen before.

Despite all that coolness, we can’t help but think this project is simply an attempt to “go viral” and get a ton of publicity from random tech blogs using only a video camera and a few hours in Final Cut Pro. You’re welcome, Popcorn Indiana.

Surely there will be a ton of comments for this post arguing the merits of this build. You can check out those comments after the break, along with the official Popinator video.


28 thoughts on “Popinator Fires Popcorn Into Your Mouth, Is Probably A PR Stunt

    1. @0:53 you can see a black tube to suck in the popcorn.
      @0:56 you can see the controll board controlling the servos (two stepper motor controllers)powered by an external supply (at about 1A, and 12v or 9v)
      @1:04 you can see the board again uc chip looks like the same form factor as the ATMEGA 328 with an Ethernet breakout board (I see the plastic clip and the board has lots of pins) the other side of that eternet cable is another board seems it has a joystick(manual controll?).
      the black wire is usb wich is powering that board and connected to the laptop.
      the light board is connected by 5 wires.
      these are only observations and assumptions by pausing the youtube video(720p) at key points and am in no way proving how real this device is just trying to state some observations to help.

      1. I definitely don’t think that it’s using ethernet. It looks like they’re “using” an ethernet cable to connect to that game controller joystick in the background. I use scare quotes because I think it’s all fake.

  1. They aren’t using the speed of light, but the speed of sound. This can be done in real time with analog VLSI.

    Source: http://www.cs.indiana.edu/~jwmills/ANALOG.NOTEBOOK/klm/klm.html about 2/3 of the way down.

    Trigger the localizer on the first P in Pop, assume everyone says pop at the same volume and use the signal to noise ratio to determine distance, then localize (again?) on the second P.
    It seems plausible.


  2. So using two microphones and determining the arrival time difference is a good start but that will only tell you the direction that the sound came from – not the distance it was away (or even the height it was in relation to the “Popinator”).

    I think a device could be made that would do what they claim but I don’t see that it is this.

  3. I think for determining distance, you could have a camera look in the direction where the pop sound came from, and then look for the mouth. Everyone’s mouth is about the same size, so you’d be able to figure out pretty accurately, how far away they are.

  4. For reloading a venturi suction tube only wide enough for a single piece of pop corn to fit through could be used. Burst mode is actually easier than single shot since you can just use a mechanism similar to that used by lottery drawing machines, or the ‘vortex’ or ‘cloud’ style bb guns. A cylindrical hopper with barrel and high volume air source entering/exiting tangentially creates a self agitating chamber and the popcorn eventually finds its way into the barrel.

    The accuracy is definitely possible with just two microphones. I imagine it’s very processing intensive and requires a fairly complex model vs using more microphones, but given the distances involved, not improbable.

  5. First Lake Woebegone, now Popcorn, Indiana. Yee Hawh! I think it’s north of Delphi, not near Val Hench for sure.
    If you don’t have crop to process (drought) then invent wacky things to do. Did anyone buy popcorn futures?
    Caution choking hazard!

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