The boxy frame, the greasy touch screens, the seemingly endless series of bleeps and bloops required to produce your cash -- there's not much to love about the modern ATM. Sure, it's better than the original, which dispensed only money, and only to people with accounts at its host bank. But ATM makers have sought to improve their product, in part because U.S. usage fell 20% in 2008, the most recent year for which data are available, to 11.8 billion transactions. By rethinking everything from the console's shape to the interface's style and function -- so long, keypads! -- "we can create machines that actually make banking cool," says Bob Tramontano, a VP at NCR, the world's largest manufacturer of ATMs.
The kiosk titan has developed several whiz-bang prototypes that aim to trim user transaction times and help banks cut production costs while sprucing up their image with a dash of high design. Although these types of consoles won't show up stateside until next year (some are being tested in Europe), NCR gave us an exclusive peek at what's to come.
1. The Cash Barrel
With this screen-free cylinder, "the transaction time is literally seconds," says Lyle Sandler, NCR's VP of design and customer experience. Users select from a flashing row of fixed withdrawal sums after dipping their card or scanning their thumbprint. The minimalist design both aids security (no corners to pry) and lowers production costs (few moving parts).
2. The Tower
Users set up withdrawals on their cell phones and then tap them on this no-interface console to get the cash. (The technology is similar to what's used in the express lanes at tollbooths.) To clarify the machine's purpose, Sandler emblazoned the tower with bright green dollar signs: "Iconography is better than words. You know what it is immediately."
3. The Motion Sensor
In lieu of a germ-riddled touch screen or keypad, users transact by pointing a finger or waving a hand past a motion sensor. The console's shape evokes a woman sitting. "People tend to find that comforting," says Sandler.
[Photos by Tatsuro Nishimura]