The world’s first automated teller machine dealing in the virtual currency Bitcoin opened on Tuesday.
Stationed near a coffee shop in Vancouver, Canada, the new ATM pays out cash for Bitcoins or accepts cash in return for the online money. The machine scans a user’s palm print and government-issued identification to deter fraud or money-laundering. Transactions are limited to $3,000 Canadian dollars per day.
Bitcoins were the preferred currency at the recently closed online drug bazaar known as Silk Road. But Bitcoins are also increasingly being used in legitimate transactions.
One of the first users of the new ATM was journalist John Koetsier, who promptly tweeted the moment.
Just used the world's first-ever Bitcoin ATM. pic.twitter.com/NtkpRRK6xc— John Koetsier (@johnkoetsier) October 29, 2013
Later, the machine’s maker, Robocoin Kiosk, tweeted a picture of another user.
The ATMs, which cost $20,000, are coming to other parts of Canada next, including Toronto and Montreal. Robocoin says it has received inquires from more than 20 regions and countries including Australia, Kenya and Ireland.
Bitcoins exist only as bits of encrypted computer code online. Users keep their stash in a virtual wallet application and can buy and sell them in dozens of currencies at established exchanges such as Mt. Gox in Tokyo.
The value of a single Bitcoin, currently just over $200, has fluctuated wildly at times but the ATM exchanges currencies in real time via Canada’s VirtEx exchange.
With the required identification scanner and other features, the ATM complies with various countries’ laws regarding money laundering, Robocoin says.
Concerns about criminal activity have somewhat hampered efforts to create legitimate Bitcoin services. In August, New York regulators subpoenaed 22 companies active in the Bitcoin economy, including well-known venture-capital firms Google Ventures and Andreesen Horowitz, seeking to uncover possible illegality.