Claw vending machines have caused wide-spread frustration in arcades the world over for decades. Known as UFO catchers in Japan, and sometimes as 'teddy pickers' or 'skill testers' in other countries, these games offer little entertainment and even less hope of success. Well, for me anyway... But now that Japan-based company Mechatrax has developed the Robo-catcher I might have some improved hope of entertainment, if not some realistic chance at winning. Their version of the claw-vending machine doesn't have a claw at all. But rather it has a bipedal robot that can walk over to the toy you want, pick it up, and throw it down the chute to your eagerly awaiting hands.
Unfortunately the user doesn't have all day to collect prizes with the biped robot however, as there is an imposed time limit when you play Robo-Catcher. There is also a challenge in positioning the robot so that it can effectively grip the prize and ensuring your eagerness doesn't send the robot overbalancing. But even if you don't win, you can still say that you got to play with a remote-control walking robot - and that's not an experience that you get everyday.
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The standard claw vending machine games may not be that interesting, but according to the Mechatrax website such games take in 200 billion yen annually in Japan alone, so it's understandable why they would attempt to do something innovative in this space.
Have a look at the video below of some kids playing the game. They're obviously pretty captivated by Robo-Catcher, as you can tell from their reactions when they manage to 'dunk' a ball down the chute.