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Vancouver Is About to Get the World's First Bitcoin ATM

Rick Bowmer/AP

At some point on Tuesday, the world's first bitcoin ATM will begin exchanging actual cash for the digital currency in downtown Vancouver. Until now, bitcoin has existed – and swooned in value – almost entirely in the ether, in online exchanges and virtual wallets. It's sometimes traded for cash in meet-ups of individual users. But this is the first time the digital currency will get banking's traditional sidewalk interface, right near a neighborhood coffee shop.

The ATM itself, with four more rumored to come elsewhere in Canada, was produced by a Nevada-based company called Robocoin, and it will be operated by a local Vancouver exchange called Bitcoiniancs. Apparently, it's easier to test the concept in Canada than the U.S. Wired explains how it will work:

To buy bitcoins with the Robocoin ATM, you need to do a palm scan and then stuff the machine with as much as 3,000 Canadian dollars per day (roughly US$2,900). The machine then makes a trade on Canada’s VirtEx exchange and moves them into your online bitcoin wallet. The palm scan is to prevent people from doing more than $3,000 worth of transactions, as that would run afoul of Canada’s anti-money-laundering laws, says Mitchell Demeter, one of the Robocoin’s new owners.

Demeter seems otherwise convinced that the scheme is legal in Canada. And the coffee shop owner sounds thrilled as well. The machine doesn't look a whole lot different from a typical ATM, save for the palm scan part.

Here's a YouTube video of it in action (complete with a soundtrack that implies you're probably cashing in your bitcoins to fund your glow stick habit):

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