Gadgets

Bitcoin ATMs landing in Austin just in time for SXSW

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zcopley/5914558006/sizes/l/in/photostream/

Out-of-towners heading into Austin, Tex., for this year’s SXSW event will have the chance to exchange their boring regular money for hot crypto-currency Bitcoin straight from an ATM thanks to startup Robocoin.

And one particularly attractive detail: you don’t need to have previously set up an account on a bitcoin exchange to make a transaction on one of Robocoin’s kiosks. (That means you, Bitcoin noob.)

The ATM

Above: Robocoin’s ‘bitcoin ATM’

Image Credit: John Koetsier

The startup already has a Bitcoin ATM in Vancouver, due in part to Canadian regulation that makes Bitcoin exchanges easier than in other countries. Robocoin’s latest ATMs are set to go live in Austin, Tex., and Seattle, Wash., later this month, making them the first Bitcoin ATMs to operate within the U.S., as first reported by Reuters.

“With Austin being on the 50-yard line of the country, we think it’s the perfect place to showcase how our technology is making Bitcoin transactions easier,” Robocoin CEO Jordan Kelley said in an interview with VentureBeat.

Robocoin’s kiosks are also coming at an optimum time, just weeks ahead of the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive event, which is known for showcasing plenty of interesting interactive technology.

While Kelley didn’t disclose the number of Robocoin kiosks Austin will be getting, he did say there would be multiple kiosks available in the downtown area during SXSW. The official unveiling of the ATMs will take place downtown Thursday, Feb. 20 at Handlebar.

“There should be more than enough Robocoin kiosks available at SXSW to satisfy the demand. We hope,” Kelley said.

Making Bitcoin transactions via a physical ATM is certainly a much easier way to get the crypto-currency than the traditional methods such as using online exchanges or swapping long alphanumeric keys.

By contrast, Robocoin’s ATM will allow you to buy Bitcoin (or exchange your currency for Bitcoin, rather) using more 60 currencies by digitally or physically depositing money into the kiosks — much like a regular ATM. You’ll also be able to withdraw Bitcoin, which can be stored via a digital wallet on your smartphone or with a receipt listing a public address and a private key.

To verify your identity, the kiosks will first scan a government-issued ID then ask you to enter a code sent to you via SMS. You’ll then be asked to scan your palm to ensure you are actually in possession of your smartphone. It’s part of a three-tier authentication strategy created by Robocoin, Kelley said.

There are a growing number of organizations that now accept Bitcoin, but the trend for physical venues is coming much slower. Basically, that means you won’t be able to use Bitcoin to buy a candy bar and soda while waiting in line for Neil deGrasse Tyson’s SXSW keynote. There are, however, a handful of local businesses accepting Bitcoin, according to this map compiled by the AustinBitcoin blog.

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RoboCoin makes it easy to buy and sell Bitcoin wherever there’s a machine.... read more »

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