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Think Tank

Bitcoin ATMs Coming to the US This Month

Austin and Seattle, echelons of early adopters and “Keep My City Weird” bumper stickers, will be the first cities in the US to receive Bitcoin ATMs. After a successful pilot program in Vancouver, Canada, Robocoin will begin testing the US market this month. The machines cost around $19,000 each, according to The Verge, and work similarly to scanning a passport or driver’s license.

In October, for Big Think, Kecia Lynn covered how the world's first Bitcoin ATM, in Vancouver’s Waves Coffee House, operates:

"No bank account or even identification is needed to use this particular machine; a simple palm [of the hand] scan is enough to confirm that the user is staying within the CDN$3,000 daily purchase maximum. One of the purchasers of the machine, who co-owns a bitcoin trading store called Bitcoiniacs, says they bought it 'to make it easier for everyone to buy bitcoins...We saw the ATM as a way to expand the model of the store.'"

In the coming weeks, expect Bitcoin ATMs to begin popping up in Asia and the UK. Bitcoiniacs, a competitor to Robocoin, says that it has its sight set on London and Singapore. After its US launch, Robocoin plans to expand into Asia.

Time will tell whether this is the start of a global take-over or a fun novelty item in tourist cities. Big Think’s Daniel Altman analyzed the inherent problems of the virtual currency:

"Bitcoin is not so well-defined as a currency in comparison to a dollar or yuan, and thus its uniqueness is much less clear. The currency is based on a mysterious algorithm whose originator is anonymous. No one really knows whether the algorithm can be trusted to generate Bitcoins as promised, or who would be accountable for errors or frauds; there is no definitive monetary authority."

More and more businesses accept Bitcoins, which are worth $621 each at the time of this writing. So will the craze outlast the philistines or will Austin and Seattle’s Bitcoin ATMs one day be considered cultural monuments to alternative lifestyles?

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

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