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New Way To Shop With Vending Machines: Swap-O-Matic

Often one thinks of a vending machine as dull, utilitarian devices. One artist in New York City decided to challenge that idea. Lina Fenquito, a graduate of the Parsons School of Design, has created a new type of vending machine called the Swap-O-Matic. It is not a snack machine, and it does not take money to operate. It illustrates an entirely new approach to vending service.

When you approach the machine, the first thing you notice are the large lockers. Instead of small slots, the Swap-O-Matic has glass bins with individual doors. But in order to make the machine work you do not need money. Instead, you make an account. Once your email is verified, the system provides you with exactly three credits. You may spend one credit to open any locker. You can earn one credit by leaving something in a locker. And what is in the locker?

It is only whatever the person before you left. It could be a notebook, a watch, or a pair of shoes. It could be a toy, a tool, or original artwork. If one customer takes something, then replaces it with something new, then the next customer will have the new option as well. So long as people keep using this vending service, it will constantly generate interesting new objects. The only limitation is what will fit in the locker.

Fenquito recognizes, “There is a thrill in getting things.” The Swap-O-Matic satisfies the human need for instant gratification, but it also recognizes that people do not want anything in particular. Many of us use vending services without any clear product goal in mind. We only know that we need something, and we make the best of what we find. Fenquito takes this human tendency and “re-appropriates it to a more sustainable method of acquisition.” In other words, the Swap-O-Matic adds the barter system to the snack machine, and uses it to multiply our joy in daily living.

Through the 20th century to today there has been a movement among artists to bring art into our everyday life. The Swap-O-Matic represents the new respect that artists have for our physical world. This is not art that demands to be put on a shelf, or seen only in a gallery. Instead, it asks politely to become part of our lives. In doing so, it changes the way that we see a vending machine and vending service. This is the service that art should provide; a transformation of the usual way of things. With the Swap-O-Matic the humble snack machine has been reborn into something new and amazing.