bitcoin

First Bitcoin ATMs heading to the U.S. in February

The world's first Bitcoin ATM landed in Vancouver, B.C. in October and now similar machines are headed stateside to Austin, TX and Seattle, WA. Nevada-based Robocoin, makers of the Bitcoin ATMs, announced on Tuesday that the U.S. would get its first Bitcoin machines later in February.

Specific locations for the ATMs were not announced.

Robocoin's machines allow users to sell Bitcoin for cash or deposit money to buy more Bitcoins. Unlike regular ATMs, Robocoin's machines don't require debit cards. Instead, the machines rely on government issued IDs and palm scans to carry out transactions.

That operational complexity is why the Robocoin machine in Vancouver, operated in partnership with Bitcoiniacs, often has an assistant stationed nearby to help people use the device. 

Robocoin also has plans to start swapping Bitcoin in Europe and Asia, according to Reuters, and it's just one of several companies looking to capitalize on the Bitcoin trend by making it easier for people to use the digital crypto-currency.

Bitcoin payment processors Bitpay and Coinbase recently made separate announcements that major online retailers TigerDirect and Overstock were now accepting Bitcoin.

Another U.S.-based company, Lamassu, is also working on Bitcoin ATMs. Lamassu unveiled Vancouver's second ATM location in February. Unlike the Robocoin device, Lamassu's ATM only lets you buy Bitcoin and not swap your crypto coins for cash, according to Vancouver's The Georgia Straight.

Crypto utopia deferred

As Bitcoin providers are busy pushing the digital currency, Bitcoin itself continues to suffer from problems and governments are beginning to take a closer look.

Most recently, major Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox was forced to suspend Bitcoin transfers. The company said it did so after a bug in the Bitcoin software, called "transaction malleability," could expose Bitcoin transactions to fraud.

Meanwhile, officials in New York state hope to begin regulating the currency before 2014 is out. Canada's federal government also intends to begin regulating the currency in the coming months.

Government regulation may not be an entirely bad thing depending on who you talk to. Mark WIlliams, a financial expert and lecturer at Boston University, recently gave his opinion on Bitcoin during New York State's hearings on virtual currencies. According to Williams, Bitcoin doesn't behave like a traditional currency and should be thought of more as a "high-risk virtual commodity." [PDF]

Bitcoin is famous for its wild price swings. The currency currently sells for around $600 per Bitcoin, based on prices from Coinbase. In late December, Bitcoin reached a high of $1,200 and only a few weeks ago was sitting around $800.

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