The Chocolate Vending Machine hat was first inspired by my experience as a runner in the Tokyo Marathon. During the race, hundreds of thousands of supporters lining the road hand out chocolates, sweets, drinks, miso soup and cold spray. Their generosity makes a huge difference to you as a runner; as well as the calorific intake, you also benefit from the positive vibes and knowledge that you’re not running this alone.
However, trying to grab these things as you run by can be tricky, and of course does tend to interrupt your flow. So that got me thinking: what if you had a specially designed hat that could dispense chocolate from your supporters as and when you needed it?
It was around this time that Discovery Channel Canada contacted me to find out if I was up to anything interesting that they could include in their report from Japan.
“Well, there is this Chocolate Vending Machine Hat idea…”
“Oh, great! Can you have it ready by Monday?” (3 days later)
3 days later I had worked out the chocolate vending mechanism: two plastic bottles, of them smakller than the other, slotted into the first. A hole cut in each, and a motor attached to the inner bottle. When the holes lined up, the chocolates would drop into a tube that then fed them into a tupperware tub just above my face.
The motor was hooked up to an Intel Edison which was in turn connected to a cloud server via wifi. An app, developed for me in the space of single evening by genius coder Jigen, controlled the motor remotely. It was controlled by a button on my website, and when that was clicked, the chocolate was dispensed.
The final touch was to add a live streaming camera so that those who were on my website clicking to feed me chocolate could see the results of their labour, in real time!
I also attached an iPad mini for good measure.
The chocolate vending machine hat was a huge hit on the streets, and although I never got to wear it in the marathon (by the time it was complete it was way outside the headgear size restrictions) it did come in super handy for various events, and the Discovery Channel team certainly had a memorable time on the streets of Harajuku with it and me.