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Polaroid To Show Digital Printing Kiosk At PMA

Polaroid, which is still operating under Chapter 11 protection, has come to the PMA show here to promote its Instant Digital Printing (IDP) technology in the form of a retail self-service kiosk.

The as-yet-unnamed kiosk uses Polaroid’s “Opal” technology to create prints from digital camera media at a rate of one 4 x 6-inch borderless print per second, said Paul Baker, VP/general manager of its digital photofinishing operation.

The theme for the kiosk, Baker noted, is simplicity and speed.

“According to our research, the average time a consumer spends at a kiosk is 15 minutes,” said Baker, who added that for the experience of digital printing to catch on, wait times would have to be drastically reduced.

“If the model is to work, it has to be like an ATM machine with minimal waiting. We’ve cut the entire transaction down to two minutes,” he said.

As such, the unit eschews some of the more time intensive functions found on other self-serve units. No cutting, cropping, image manipulation or Internet connectivity was incorporated into the device — just the ability to quickly produce prints.

To help ensure quality, Polaroid employed its IQA (Image Quality Assured) software platform in the unit to optimize the balance, contrast, resolution and sharpness of any image while rendering the images at a speed to keep up with the fast hardware and media.

The touch screen unit accepts CompactFlash, SmartMedia, Sony Memory Stick, PCMCIA cards and CDs. The kiosk requires less service than most on the market, said Baker, because it can hold a total of 2,500 prints as opposed to most kiosks on the market that can only hold about 300 prints and require frequent replenishing. In addition, the print engine does not require chemicals.

The unit is currently being tested internally by Polaroid and will be ready for retail installation in the Fall. The price has not yet been determined. The Opal technology, however, will be incorporated into a retail kiosk from Gretag, called the Digital Photo Station.

Baker indicated that though the company is moving to sell off all its assets in accordance to its Chapter 11 filing, a sale would not affect the rollout of the kiosk, though it will probably affect what brand name it carries.

Since filing for bankruptcy in October, Polaroid has become an example of traditional photo companies struggling to stay afloat on the rising digital tide. The company’s brisk business in instant film cameras and VGA quality digital cameras aimed at the teen market were not enough to stave off the creditors.

The company has already pared off several of its business-to-business appendages. It has also sold its Digital Solutions business unit to Appareo Software and the Identification Systems Business Division to Digimarc Corp. The remaining units are still on the selling block and Baker noted that the IDP division has proven particularly attractive to several suitors, though no deals have been finalized.