The Autofrisk: All the Groping Action, Just 40 Pence


Cheeky engineer Tim Hunkin (of Secret Life of Machines fame) invented the Autofrisk, a device that gently gropes the user in exchange for a few coins. (In the U.K. apparently one cannot get this experience for free at local airports.) The Autofrisk is one of many coin-operated machines Hunkin built for an ongoing show under the Southwold Pier in Suffolk, which looks to me to be a kind of geek Mecca.

Hunkin and compatriots made a ten-minute film about the process of making the Autofrisk and similar machines. It's called Trial & Error, and it's about how Hunkin designs his machines as he goes along, adapting as he discovers limitations in the materials rather than designing everything in the abstract beforehand. For example, the Autofrisk was originally designed to have nine inflated hands groping at once (!); that had to be reduced to three after he tested the amount of air necessary to inflate all those gropers.

Hunkin says the machine has "never taken as much money as some of the others, as you have to be quite bold to try it with other people watching you." At 40p (about $0.62), it seems a bargain to me -- probably the most robotic groping a person can get for the money. You can read more about the Autofrisk or watch this lovely little documentary about it:

If you don't have ten minutes, here's a short video of a lady experiencing the Autofrisk for the first time:

Hunkin also sells a DVD containing tons (sorry, tonnes) of videos of his wonderful machines.