GREENVALE, NY -- Apple Industries reports that its research and development center, located at its new headquarters here, is blazing a trail for the future of automatic photo machines. One manifestation of its expanded R&D capabilities is a photo vending system that integrates AMI Entertainment's NGX jukebox and Apple's Face Place technology.
NGX Face Place integrates Apple's Smile 2.0 software with the modular jukebox system. It combines the engagement of photobooth entertainment from Apple with networked digital music services delivered by an AMI-powered jukebox. The integration makes full use of Apple's software, including built-in face detection that responds to patrons' proximity by inviting them to take a picture. If they accept the invitation, they not only can print the resulting photo in a variety of formats, but also share the image with friends on a variety of social media or by email. A Face Place skin wraps the modular NGX and informs patrons of the jukebox's additional capabilities.
Apple moved into its new 10,000-sq.ft. facility on Long Island in 2010. "A major reason for the move was that the larger facility gave us the room needed to expand our R&D team," said Apple chief executive Allen Weisberg.
The division is headed by R&D and IT director Mike Bloomfield, a computer expert who joined the company two years ago. Bloomfield, who's notable (or notorious) for playing a key role in designing traffic-surveillance photo ID systems for law enforcement, also oversees Apple's IT systems, including servers. Ian Biller and Russell Maslankowski, senior and quality control engineers, respectively, are key members of his team.
Their state-of-the-art R&D lab is equipped with workstations running cutting-edge development tools, including Visual Studio, and digital design software and memory profiles. A second lab is dedicated to quality assurance; it tests every possible condition or use of each component of Apple photobooths.
"Technology is one of the most important elements in the modern amusement industry," Bloomfield said. "To make sure we launch the most innovative products on the market, we have to perform high-quality, continuous R&D, engineer exact prototypes, test proofs of concept and improve each product through a rigorous process of ongoing evolution. That requires an excellent team to develop one product while another team is busy inventing the next concept."
Shortly after Apple moved into its new facility, the NGX jukebox made its debut at the Amusement Expo in March 2011. Its design philosophy called for a streamlined, economically priced next-generation jukebox with interchangeable "skins" that operators could use to quickly transform the box's look and shape on location, when necessary. It was also an ideal framework for a photobooth skin.
Development of the NGX Face Place entailed a multi-phased approach that combined face-to-face and virtual collaboration, Bloomfield explained. Most of the development was done with AMI and Apple's engineering teams communicating remotely, between the photobooth company's Long Island office and AMI's facilities in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Illinois. The result was the creation of several application interfaces that enable photobooth and jukebox services in same unit.
AMI Entertainment is expected to begin shipping the NGX Face Place this month. The unit will incorporate the Face Place printer, manufactured by Mitsubishi, which can deliver color or monochrome prints. Face Place automatic picture technology is capable of producing classic photo strips, as well as 4x6 or postcard-size prints. And it can personalize the prints with a location logotype or other graphic design that can help drive traffic to the operator's jukebox accounts.
As for Smile 2.0 -- Apple's first implementation of a platform that enables consumers to access Internet services and social networks, and allows operators to remotely manage their photobooths -- it's only in its infancy, the manufacturer said. Apple president Warren Friss describes and demonstrates the photobooth system in an informative video.