Red Bull Arcade Machine-Dubai


Drop Redbull can in the arcade machine and play game.


Folks at Red bull wanted to bring in the retro gaming back to the kid and teenagers and to those who thought arcade gaming was just a memory. Now an arcade machine with just Red bull branding would be pretty lame. The red bull component was missing, so after a lot of brain storming on how user can interact with the machine using a red bull, the idea was finalized. User would get play time on the arcade machine when he/she put in an Red bull can in the machine. This was a very high level idea, so me and the CTO, over long skype calls refined the details of the user journey talking about all the pro and cons. First we wanted to let user insert the can half way and play the game and also take it out so user can enjoy the rest of the drink. It was not a good solution as we didn’t want the same can be used again to play the game. So the user had to insert an empty can. We also discussed the possiblility of marking the cans some how, using stamps and laser marking, but the deadline was getting closer and we were making the system more complex. So we started making the Red Bull Arcade Machine.

Red Bull Arcade Machine Development

The cogs and gears started to tick, on how to detect if its red bull, and yes there are 6 variants of red bull, the standard one, a bigger can, red edition, blue edition, silver edition and sugar free red bull. After a lot of debating on the best and robust way of detecting the can, reading the bar-code of the can was the best option. So the user would insert the can, which cannot be taken out, the bar-code would be scanned, get thrown in the storage bin in the machine and the controls would become active and user would get few minutes to play. A button is also provided for the user to renew the timer so the game can be played for a longer time. I did the electronics part and also conceptualize the mechanism that would scan and read the bar-code. The CAD modelling was done by Anand Tandel at Element-8 and also the parts were printed on their prusa. Siddhant, the owner of Element-8 design was kind enough to let me use his expensive tools and workshop space.

The internal mechanism works like this, the can is dropped in the scanner, distance sensor detects the can, a continuous servo rotates the can via 1:1 gear and the bar-code scanner is turned on, as soon as the bar code is read, half pipe is raised and an arm sweep the can off into the bin, controls become active and all is homed in the scanner.

Here is the machine at Red bull office in Dubai.


This project was done in about 35 days from start to finish. I started work on the can scanner mechanism and once that was done, I disassembled it, packed it and reached Dubai, I designed the machine in sketch up, which was a high level design, the final design to manufacture and manufacturing was done by SAMA production. While the machine was being fabricated I was working on the firmware. When that was done, I started the integration. There were some hiccups on the way but were managed.

So the machine works like this, user inserts an empty can in a hole,the scanner inside the machine check if its a red bull can it activate the controls, joysticks and buttons for 4 minutes, a reset button resets the timer back to 4 minutes so user can play for longer timer if he/she wishes.

Here are the daily project updates  and a gallery of photos.


Update #1
Purchased the bar code scanner, couple of red bulls and the motors
that are going to be used, sat down with the mechanical design team
and drafted out two versions of the scanning mechanism. We’ll 3d
print first one and test with the cans. Also I wrote the skeleton

Update #2
Hacked up the bar-code scanner so it can be mounted in the mechanism.
Purchased Xbox controller and studied the insides, it is a common ground type so less mess of wires.
The mechanism is taking shape, we should have it done by this weekend. The one we design yesterday was failing at times, so we are adding one more motor so that we get 100% success in bar-code scanning, also it is possible to scan the can upside down, but it will not rotate properly if the tab/cap is present. If the tab is removed we can scan the can upside down.
I’m not able to work on electronics as I’ve to sit with the mechanical designer and guide him. The slots you see in the design are for the bar code laser and the arm that would sweep the can after its read.

Update #3
Mechanical design is done, will start making it tomorrow evening, 3d printing the part will start at around 10am and print will take around 6 hours. While I was guiding the designer, I was coding side by side. After the scanning mechanism is built, I’ll start testing the sub systems like can rotation,scanning and can disposal in to storage bin. Also I tested different pipes with red bull can that would be used as guide to red bull to land up right on the base. The pipe would be split in half, so we would have two semi circular pipes, it difficult to explain the mechanism in text, I’ll send a video of it in action.

Update #4
Printed the one gear as a sample, it came out in oval shape, so made some adjustments,and printed it again, it came out all good. I made a last minute design change and those parts started print in evening, it was a 5 hour print, we kept the printer running and closed the workshop. It should be done by now. I tested out the can rotation mechanism manually. On electronics side finally stated to make some progress. I tested one button press via connecting the wires. Also I tested simulated button press via electronic signals using 4066. It did not gave expected results, I’ll be testing with other ICs. The xbox 360[500GB] console is dispatched, it will be delivered on sunday.

I’ll be doing the shopping of rest of electronics components tomorrow,and preparing for an event on Saturday. On Sunday I’m going on a one-day religious tour with family. So no major updates on Saturday and Sunday I’ve asked the mechanical design team to assemble the scanner mechanism in the mean time.
Update #5
Did all the shopping of all the electronics components and cables and cable management. Also got the arcade buttons and the joystick, I’m not too happy with the quality and the feel of it, I purchased them never the less so I can start working on it, I’ll be buying better ones online. The self lit button are of good quality and available in four colours. I’ve sent the pics on Skype.

Update #5
I got my hands on the xbox 360 and used it a bit to get aquainted with its interface, played some games, to get an idea with which buttons are being used and should and should not be available to the user. Tested out the components that I purchased on Friday like power supply for the system and it passed. Then I headed out the mechanical design team’s workshop to assemble the scanner. Not much work was done in my absence, I started the assemble and dry fit all the parts. It turned out three parts were of incorrect dimension, so corrected them and printed that out. In the pics I’ve showed the basic operation of can scanning, the can would travel down the pipe, rotate and be scanned by the bar-code scanner, half of the pipe would raise up, and a arm would throw the can out to the storage bin.
Update #6
I carefully soldered on the xbox controller, now its ready to be connected to the buttons, after each connection I tested the button, every connection that was made could potentially harm the controller and render it useless, but all went well. Ordered new joysticks and buttons, On the cam scanner side, did more assembly and set the placement of the bar-code scanner,there were few parts which had too close to moving parts, now the parts are in their third version. I’ve targeted to complete mechanical side of the can scanner by tomorrow day end so that I can completely move my focus to the electronics and the control system, and complete it as soon as as possible. The motors I ordered the other day arrived in the mail today which will be used to rotate the can. Now we have all the part to make it rock and roll. With each part, I’m ordering extras just in case.
Update #7
On electronics side, did some reverse engineering and now we have two more buttons for the user the left and right trigger button. It was not a simple as adding a switch, but had to create a voltage divider using resistors. On the can scanner side, all the mechanical side of it is done, just some bit and pieces left. There are three operations with the scanner, rotation of can, opening the gate so Can have space to fall, and the sweep arm that throws the can in the bin. I’ve tested all of them individually and starting tomorrow I’ll be working on the control system and coding. Meanwhile the mechanical team will be printing the parts required for the other machine.
Update #8
Configured the bar-code scanner so it sends data via UART which the control system can understand. For the bar-code to start the read, a button needs to be press, which would controlled via the control system. Tested the circuit that does that. Also tested the circuit that will control the controller, which would reset the game. The Xbox console, controller and the barcode scanner are electronically isolated. So in worst case scenario, if the control system has any problems, console,xbox controller and bar-code scanner will be safe. Created the circuit diagram and the layout of the main control system. It should be done by 30th. The parts of the other machine are printed.

Update #9
Started making the control system, and test part along the way, its 90% done, will be complete by tomorrow, then will shift to programming.

Update #10
Sorry I could not send it last night. The control system is done, I thoroughly tested all the sub systems, and everything works, all the communications between different devices are also working. So for each system I wrote a small program, and loaded it and tested it.

In total I tested
1. barcode scanner button
2. can rotation motor
3. x box controller on/off
4. arm motor that dumps the can in storage
5. gate motor
6. communication with barcode scanner
7. RGB led
8. Simulating button presses on the x-box controller

Update #11
Did some coding its not done but I’m not too worried about it, started making second control system.

Update #12
Started on the second machine, also changed some parts in the first mechanism.

Update #13
Worked on scanner, first is completed with sensors and led diffuser
The second scanner is almost done, should be done by tomorrow afternoon.
It was a busy day I didn’t took any pics, I’ll mail tomorrow morning.

Update #14
Started building the second controller,and made changes to new bar-code scanner. I discovered a big mistake I made, I did not make any connection for timer and its light. I’ll fix it in both circuit.

Update #15
Both the control systems are ready, tested all the subsystems and all is good. The scanners is also done, I figured out how to fix the timer button and its light issue, it will be done by tomorrow.

Update #16
Fixed the timer and self lit issue by adding more circuit to both systems, started deconstructing the scanner. Things left in to do list is programming and making wire harnesses. I’ll try to send the dimension of the machine tomorrow. I was using a laser beam and light sensor to detect is the can is present or not, but he mounts are not robust and can move during transportation, so switching to a distance sensor instead.


If the client gives permission,I’ll open source the code. Below are the pictures that were taken during the development.



  • indiantinker

    Amazing Project Hemal ! Fantastic Work 😀