The Snapbot vending machine landed on Dilworth Park on Tuesday at noon.
And the denizens quickly descended to snap up its sole sale item, Spectacles, snazzy, high-tech sunglasses ($129.99 in black, coral, or teal) with a fish-eye lens video camera built into the frames.
Uniquely cool and easy to use, Spectacles have been one of the most sought-after and hard-to-get gadgets in recent months. It captures a wide-angle view of your world that shifts when the playback smartphone or tablet screen is rotated from horizontal to vertical. That's especially appealing to users of the visual message-sharing app Snapchat that stands behind it.
"I'm going to wear them when I'm playing music and post the videos to social media," said Benjamin Gullett, a 22-year-old University of the Arts student who drums behind local rapper Tone Stitch. The videos can be a maximum of 30 seconds long.
Holding true to the code of pop-up stores, parent company Snap "just tweets out a 24-hour countdown to a Snapbot reveal," said James Base, a Temple student also in line to buy a pair. "Then, exactly when they're ready to start selling, Snapchat posts a picture of the Snapbot's location and you have to guess where it is. I could see the LOVE sculpture in the background and knew they were here."
VisitPhilly, big-time users and endorsers of the Snapchat social-media platform, helped organize the landing, synced to Valentine's Day and the LOVE sculpture's final hours before it was to be shipped off for refurbishing.
"We'd already invited TV and radio crews for the sculpture's farewell and Valentine's Day," said VisitPhilly social media director Dana Schmidt. "As a surprise bonus, they got to witness the Spectacles sales excitement. And for people just passing by, what a great, last-minute gift to buy." Roses also were being given out for free.
While not your typical Snapchat user, seasoned Family Court writ-service supervisor Mike Henkel "is a bit of a gadget guy and thought somebody in my family would like them," he said, toting a packaged pair.
Like this writer, who also succumbed, Henkel was intrigued by the charms of the booth as well as the product: You step up to the Snapbot's screen and then, through the magic of Snapchat's superimposition and emblem-endowing software, a perfect replica of the glasses magically appears on your face in the color you want to virtually try on, switched by pushing one of three big buttons.
"And if you don't like them, you can always sell them," said seasoned Snapchat poster Chris Monachino, celebrating the big day his way. "But most people keep them. Unlike Snapchat images, which only stay online for a little while, Spectacles-made videos live in their cloud permanently. When these sunglasses first went on sale in November, people were reselling them on eBay for upward of $500 a pair. Now it's down to about $200-$225. So if you buy two pairs out of a machine (the maximum allowed per transaction) you can keep one and still get your money back."