Fake Hurricane Winds Swirl At Tampa Shopping Centers

For some, shopping has always provided a certain rush. But now shoppers and their hold-my-purse-honey companions have a new way to get the adrenaline pumping.

Tampa's University Mall and Big Top Flea Market have hosted hurricane simulators recently, and if you look at the website, people seem to be enjoying the experience.

"It is nice to be involved with a product whose success is measured in 'smiles per hour,' " says Chris Barrs of o8o Leasing. "As a product designer, I have enjoyed being involved with the evolution of the product itself as well as the business model that has made this possible."

According to Barrs, there are 14 vending-machine styled simulators in the Tampa Bay region. Barrs says the idea for "portable" simulators grew from museum exhibits such as the one in the Disasterville at the Museum of Science and Industry. "They started out as science museum exhibits and then morphed into vending machines over several years of development," says Barrs. "Once we decided to manufacture, own and operate the machines instead of selling them to institutions, our business took off."

Barrs says it was relatively easy to adapt the original simulator to vending-machine size. "It is not rocket science. Basically there is a big, specialized fan that we have developed and some proprietary electronics that allows the credit card reader and bill validator to speak to each other. We do some interesting things to the power supply in order to make this machine perform on a standard outlet that you find in a mall."

Hurricane simulators aren't the only product o8o Leasing is working. The website also boasts furniture, art and other products. "We are focused on the hurricanes simulators for now, but we have a lot of manufacturing capability in-house which is handy for prototyping the next big idea."

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Chris Barrs, o8o Leasing

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