Snap Inc.’s Spectacles Are Dropping Today in These Crazy Cool Vending Machines

A new kind of product distro

Headshot of Christopher Heine

You are strolling on a sidewalk when you see this unusual-looking machine. You think it might be a vending machine, and, as you draw closer, you discover it's been "sleeping." You know that because you have, via motion sensors, "woken it up," and then you notice it has a big digital eye that seems to want to interact with you. OK, now you understand it is indeed a vending machine, yet it looks a bit like a Minions character, sounds like C-3P0 and is selling a device for $130.

You're not just going to keep on walking, especially if you're a Snapchat-loving millennial who's picked up on the style of the app's out-of-home marketing—and if you have enough room on your credit card to make the purchase.

The above scenario is at the heart of Snap Inc.'s intriguing strategy to sell Spectacles, its souped-up sunglasses that records video, thanks to an integrated camera, from the wearer's eye-level perspective. The company will drop a few of its interactive vending machines, called Snapbots, around the country, starting with one today on Venice Beach nearby its Southern California headquarters. Adorned with big, yellow balloons, the machines will be in a town for about a day before moving to another location.

The Snapbots will represent Spectacles' only retail distribution for months. After today, people can visit to discover where the Snapbots will appear next on a day-to-day basis. Their appearances are fashioned to be mysterious, and they will supposedly be in fun, touristy places. 

When people approach a Snapbot, it will offer them a preview of Spectacles video footage being played back. Three buttons—colored teal, black and coal—can be pushed to create an experience on the vending machine's digital screen that's akin to a Snapchat lens, letting individuals see the lens in the trio of colors over their faces. The exterior of the Spectacles come in the three colors as well. 

If they get out their credit or debit card and buy one of the $130 devices, they'll learn that Spectacles come loaded with battery power, so clips—or "memories," as the company is calling them—can be immediately recorded. Spectacles' first-person videos can be imported into the first Snapchat app account the device is synced with. And of course, the memories can be shared with friends on the app—Snap Inc. wants people to pass around footage of the vending machines to generate buzz.

Earlier this week, the update for Snapchat's iOS version hinted that Spectacles was coming soon by adding support for the device. Now, they're here. Whether they become more popular than the failed Google Glass bears watching. 

Snap Inc. has recently been promoting its Spectacles release with a series of around 60 street-side billboards in various cities. The ads sometimes include Snapchat's ghost mascot, but they never include branding for the app. The visual-narrative-style campaign is supposed to make Snapchat users feel like insiders, and the Snapbot vending machines with their impromptu appearances are designed to tie into that style of thinking. Also, the concept of passersby randomly discovering the devices is intended to generate excitement you might not feel opening up an Amazon box at home. 

Check out the outdoor ads below as well as an airport tray promo:





@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.