Here's show-stopper of a business card
Utahn's whimsical contraption offers a visual journey
By Elaine Jarvik - October 16, 1999
Deseret News staff writer
Dale Emery has invented a machine that does something slower. You put
in a quarter and 2½ minutes later the machine spits out a token.
This isn't what inventors are supposed to do, is it? Aren't the waning days of the 20th century about speed? We get antsy while the computer
is flashing the words "waiting for reply." We turn left even after the light has already changed to red.
But Emery is banking on whimsy over speed.
His creation is called the Tokinetic Machine. You put a quarter in and for the next two minutes you get to watch some plastic and metal balls take a roundabout journey down ramps and through trap doors, and eventually a robotic arm tilts a metal plate and then, with a satisfying plunk, your token comes out.
The token takes the place of a business card. So you don't really need
the token at all, or the machine. But the man who commissioned the Tokinetic
- a Florida physician and businessman named William Murphy Jr. - figures
that the machine is just what his company needs to attract attention at
Emery paints a picture of what it's like at those trade shows:
"These guys are slumping along with a bag full of junk. And they've
seen it all before." The same old posters and videos. The same old
stacks of pamphlets.
So Murphy's idea was this:
Design a contraption that will catch the eye of those beleaguered, expo-weary businessmen and engineers. Murphy, who is on the board of the Salt Lake robotics design company Sarcos, called Sarcos president Steve Jacobsen, who said, "I've got just the contraption designer you're looking for." Dale Emery, after all, is the kinetic artist behind Gumball Gizmo. You've maybe seen one at Trolley Square - a Rube Goldberg contraption that sends a gumball on an entertaining journey from here to there and ultimately into the customer's hand. And that was only the first Gumball Gizmo, in fact. Since then, Emery's Orem business, Bixworks, has turned out 200 full-size Gizmos and about 2,000 Gizmo Jrs., including about a half-million-dollar order to Japan. In Japan, for some reason, they call the Gumball Gizmo "Mr. Grey."
"The Gumball Gizmo turned the bulk vending business on its head," says Emery. There have been 12 copycat gumball "mechanical entertainment" machines since then, he says. "None as good as ours, I can truthfully say."
Emery studied art at the University of Utah and worked for a time at Sarcos as an engineer's technician. But designing contraptions is his dream job. His dad was a toy engineer in Erie, Pa., so Emery has fond memories of his dad bringing home the Flashy Flicker and pingpong ball shooters and mechanical drummer boys - which he would play with for about five minutes and then pull apart so he could see what was inside.
In high school he designed his first piece of kinetic art, the prototype of his Kineticon, which you can also find these days at Trolley Square. During the Kineticon's early stages, though, Emery kept the thing hidden under a sheet so his family wouldn't make fun of him.
It has taken him the past year and a half to design, build and perfect
the Tokinetic Machine. The assignment was to build not only an amusing,
arresting showstopper but a machine that used various products sold by
Murphy's Small Parts Inc. The result is a 2 by 4 by 6-foot glass case that
has 15 motors, plus assorted high helix lead screws, anti-backlash
units, flexible shafts, sliding universal joints and bearing actuators.
Bixworks home page