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Zoom ‘Robotic’ Stores Zoom Forward

Zoom Systems last month announced that it would be accelerating its deployment of the company’s automated retail stores, known as Zoom Shops.

Found in high-traffic areas like airports in Atlanta and San Francisco, these high-tech vending machines carry such items as Apple iPods, Sony headphones, Virgin Mobile prepaid phones, XM and Sirius satellite radios, HP and Canon ink cartridges and Nintendo Game Boys. Zoom plans to place 3,000 of the “robotic stores” in high-traffic locations over the next two years; it expects the number to grow to 10,000 stores in the next five years.

Zoom touts the robotic stores as compact, affordable alternatives to retail stores; the machines occupy 28 square feet and cost less than one full-time employee, says the company. They are centrally networked, feature a touch-screen consumer interface and deliver items via a robotic arm. According to the company, patented optical technology ensures the product has been delivered before the customer’s credit or debit card is charged for the purchase.

Able to be customized for its location, the machine’s product offering is adjusted accordingly. Zoom Shops found in hotels offer personal electronics and computer accessories, along with medicines and personal care products traditionally found in a hotel store, while the Zoom Shops in grocery stores may feature ink cartridges and computer accessories.