The Perspective 
Tuesday, 13 January 2009
2008 has come and gone, ushering in some of the most practical self-service applications to ever hit the industry. There were the rising stars – the redboxes, the SoloHealths and the Mod Systems of the world. But as the old saying goes, not every elevator makes it to the top floor. There were other deployments that ...
Well ...
Let's just say that when the votes are tallied and final story of mankind's achievement is told, they'll certainly raise some eyebrows.
In just a moment, you're going to read about some of those kiosks. I can tell you the who, the what - and in some cases - the where.
What I can't tell you is why.
And therein lies the tale. Some of them have legitmate purposes, while others call into question their being. All of them are characterized by a quirky edge. For the truth of the matter is, these deployments have one leg in objective reality, and the other in that shadowy realm mere mortals refer to simply as "the unknown."
…And now they're subheads on's "Weirdest of 2008" list.

#5 – Student Performance Kiosks.
For most shoppers, the local grocery store is an open inventory of food, supplies, clothing – the bare necessities of life. But things are different in Grand Valley, Colo. – particularly in a little area known to the locals as School District 51. Six City Market grocery stores populate the district, each containing computer kiosks. But you won't be able to pay your bills or purchase gift cards here. Instead, these kiosks tell you about your children. According to The Daily Sentinel, parents can use the kiosks to look up their child's school grades, attendance records, assignments and lunch expenditures. And they don't dispense prepaid phone cards, they schedule parent-teacher conferences. It's an unexpected partnership between City Market, the county government and Bresnan Communications. Practical, you say? Maybe so. But if you're a middle school student worried about the grade you got on that Ernest Hemmingway book report, you might think twice before asking mom and dad to swing by the grocery store to pick up some Wheaties ...
#4 – Self-service book binding kiosks.
There's nothing new or inherently bizarre about swiping your card and having a kiosk dispense the latest entry in a long list of summer reading. But deep in the heart of New York City – a bustling metropolis where unsuspecting men and women in well-tailored business suits scurry about their mundane tasks – one company is building a horse of a different color. For the Espresso book ATM created by On Demand Books doesn't just dispense the books – it builds them for you. It accepts pdf files from the user, prints, mills, aligns, glues and dispenses professionally bound books in only seven minutes. Book covers come in four colors. It may be something for the local Kinko's to consider, but don't look for it at the airport anytime soon.
#3 – Carbon offset kiosks.
Submitted for your approval: a world held in the unmerciful grip of an economic recession. As businesses fight bankruptcy like gladiators in some ancient coliseum, men and women struggle to hold on to what little currency they have. Against this backdrop, one San Francisco company, 3Degrees, unveils a kiosk that takes the user's money and, in exchange, provides them with a certificate of no tangible benefit whatsoever. So it is with the carbon offset kiosks now deployed at the San Francisco International Airport. Travelers guilt-ridden with the knowledge that their flight spewed harmful carbon emissions into the atmosphere can volunteer to swipe their cards and pay compensation in the form of carbon offsets. I don't name this kiosk to call into question the value of ecological responsibility. Instead, mine is an issue of timing, for the time at which the kiosks are deployed is the one time consumers can't afford to use them. It's an irony found only on the "Weirdest of 2008" list.
#2 – The Robot kiosk.
You can't judge a book by its cover. Whoever penned that adage probably wasn't looking at this Robot kiosk designed by NEC and demonstrated at the iEXPO 2008 trade show in Japan. The kiosk is a replica of a life-sized android.
But it just dispenses tickets -- it's not alive, you say. Don't be so sure. According to, the kiosk can use facial recognition technology to identify, single out and target ads to individuals. It's not without its critics, however.
As a blogger on stated, "Clearly, it's jut a ticket kiosk. It's not a robot. It can't walk around, it isn't sentient. It's just shaped like a robot, and we aren't fooled by it. Those legs are just for decoration. Weak, Japan."
Tough medicine from a skeptic or frantic words fueled by fear? In any case, if you happen to be at an amusement park and get the strange feeling something – or someone – is looking over your shoulder, don't panic. Just reach into your wallet, pull out your credit card and buy a ticket to that jazz concert…before those lifeless eyes zero in on you.
#1 – Marijuana kiosks.
Chalk this deployment up as something that could only happen in Los Angeles. A series of kiosks deploys medical marijuana – cash for hash, so to speak. Not only did this deployment catch the eye of us at, but it also raised eyebrows at the U.N.'s International Narcotics Control Board in Vienna, who quickly ruled that the machines are illegal and should be shut down. Let's just say it's one more notch in a long tally of self-service experiments that maybe should have never made if off the drawing board.
So there you have it – five kiosk deployments that served as monuments to the bizarre in 2008. As we plunge headlong into 2009, we have no doubt that there will be even more wacky and fantastic entries for this year's list. If you happen to be at a seminar, a trade show or just picking up groceries on a Saturday afternoon and you stumble upon a kiosk deployment that doesn't quite fit the mold, don't panic. There's no need to hide the children. Just snap a picture, write a brief description and e-mail it to .
Posted by: Travis K. Kircher AT 10:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  

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