A couple of weeks ago we blogged about a new prototype ‘espresso robot’ – a coffee machine with a difference that is capable of replacing human barristas – by producing perfect cups of coffee to order via a smartphone app. This week we take a look at another automated and innovative design for retail – a machine that could replace human newstand sellers – and paper waste – by printing magazines and newspapers on demand.
The MegaNews magazine kiosk is a prototype design introduced in a shopping mall in Stockholm, Sweden. With a wooden veneer finish that makes it look spookily similar to the robot barrista we recently checked out on this blog, MegaNews offers new opportunities for both digital and printed media. At present it only vends a selection of Sweden’s 100 most popular newspapers and magazines, including international editions, but it is capable of reproducing any form of magazine including independent titles and digital editions or online publications.
To select a title, a MegaNews user browses through the titles on display on one of the machine’s screens. After making their choice, the user then inserts payment and the machine will begin printing immediately. The print technology inside the machine is provided in partnership with Ricoh, the copier manufacturer to produce a good quality printed copy which ultimately cuts down the middleman for publishers when it comes to physical distribution of pre-printed media and disposal of left-over copies – bringing the printing process much closer to the consumer.
Printed media plays a large role in the contemporary media landscape, despite falling on hard times in the recent economic climate, so this new way of distributing and selling content could be seen as an excellent attempt at diversification in order for the medium to survive. Many people still like to have a physical copy of a magazine to read – you can’t drop an iPad in the bath when reading an online publication – and what if you’ve forgotten to take your kindle with you and need something to read on a long journey? This method of availability also provides opportunities for providing several updated editions of a the news – as with online content – available to print on demand in a format which many people still prefer to hauling portable technology or squinting at a screen.
Some commentators are concerned that this type of print-on-demand service could fully replace the human touch – as with the robotic coffee barista. Could we really allow this to happen? I’d also be interested to see if they could provide mixed content ‘pick and mix’ publications – eg 10 pages of Heat magazine, 3 pages of the New Scientist and some recipes from Good Housekeeping to produce some hybrid documents that truly satisfy the reading needs of the individual, presenting only the content or particular articles that they want to read. This in turn could feed back to publishers to let them know which articles readers find most interesting. Could you think of any other uses for this format and how do you feel about the possibility of humans being replaced? Perhaps they would be needed to curate a collection of articles in the same way that a florist composes a bouquet of flowers based on their skills and customer suggestions? Or could the machines do that too?