AUG 21, 2017 5:47 AM PDT

How Claw Machines are Rigged


Claw machines: They're the ever-popular games that are ubiquitous in every mall and arcade. The premise is simple (and seemingly quite economical). Pop in two quarters, and you get the chance to maneuver the claws to grab any toy or gadget of your desire. Whatever you grab, you keep.

But anyone who has fallen for this machine once knows that the odds of successfully grabbing anything (let alone a brand-new iPhone) is next to nil. And it's not unlucky coincidences either - these machines are designed for players to lose. The strength of the claws (aka how strongly it'll grab hold onto an object) is programmable. In addition, the claws can also be programmed to drop objects in midair - a calculating trick to make players think they have a chance. In short, all the mechanics of the claws have been carefully designed (rigged) so as to maximize the profits for the owner.

When it comes to claw machines, the odds are likely never in your favor; you'd be far more successful spending those quarters at a vending machine.
About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at
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