At Yahoo Tech on Tuesday, we had the privilege to “taste the rainbow” in an entirely new way: via the orifice of a remote-control, Skittles-dispensing cloud machine.
The small white blob on wheels visited us at our office in New York. But not without a bit of pomp and circumstance.
We were first notified of this creature’s existence by our colleague David Pogue.
“Skittles wants to drop by the NYC office with a robotic Skittles dispenser,” he emailed us out of nowhere. “Would you guys (a) welcome it, or (b) not have the time?”
No one hesitated. If we didn’t have time, we would make time. We welcomed what we imagined to be our new robotic candy overlord with open arms and set a date for its arrival.
On the day of the visit, as we waited for the appearance of this robotic Skittles dispenser, we joyfully imagined the magical things it might be able to do: How exactly did it dispense the Skittles? Did the Skittles robot have WiFi? Bluetooth? What genius engineer made the robot, and would she be able to produce more candy-related machinery in the future?
Most importantly, would there be Skittles provided for us to eat? And if so, how many Skittles bags per employee? And if more than one, would there be several different Skittles flavors to choose from?
The appointed time finally arrived. Three human attendants parted Yahoo Tech’s glass office doors and carried the mysterious robot in a bespoke large red sack, like a sultan in a conveniently portable throne. A man in a bright-red jumpsuit removed it—a bulbous white shell in the shape of a cloud—from the bag and positioned it on my desk.
Its name was Sammy, the humans said. According to the trio, it was inspired by the pet cloud named Freddy, who stars in Skittles’ latest batch of commercials.
From what we could infer, Sammy seemed to be a distant crazy cousin of the Roomba. But rather than silently suck dust on the floor, this thing was controlled by a separate remote control (also bright red). The man in the jumpsuit operated it. He pressed the trigger of his remote, and the little cloud began charging back and forth on my desk. Then he released the trigger and pressed the “Thunder” button, causing Sammy to emit a thunder-like cry and flash blue lights from underneath his eerily smooth white shell.
For the grand finale, the man pressed a button that caused Skittles to flow from Sammy’s sky-blue tube.
Once we’d sufficiently documented this feature, Red Jumpsuit Man placed Sammy on the floor and pulled the trigger, zooming it around our feet and down the hall. For every inch it traveled, about 10 Skittles fell from its underbelly. “Don’t worry about it,” he said, trailing behind the contraption, stepping on the rainbow-colored candy.
Eventually Red Jumpsuit Man encouraged me to take control, and I, too, was able to contribute to the mess, as I spun Sammy to and fro and popped his little white shell into unknowing co-workers’ cubicles. My navigation wasn’t always stellar, as evidenced by the video my co-worker Daniel Bean made below.
Soon our visitors had the attention of the entire floor, and they went on a tour around the office. One guy took control of Sammy in our cafeteria and smashed it into a bunch of chairs, causing Skittles to spew everywhere on the linoleum floor. (The PR team sheepishly asked if it was OK that they made a mess. I gave them a look, and then the Man in the Red Jumpsuit reluctantly grabbed a broom.)
We were under the impression that Sammy would stay, but after that incident, the trio swept him up, threw him back in his red gym bag, and said he had to sleep now.
We were left with two giant tote bags filled with Skittles—and a vague aftertaste of disappointment that Sammy wasn’t our permanent colleague.
Au revoir, Sammy. Au revoir.