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Exploring Crypto ‘Vending Machines’: Physical Machines, Dispensers, and Autonomous Agentsby@obyte
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Exploring Crypto ‘Vending Machines’: Physical Machines, Dispensers, and Autonomous Agents

by ObyteJanuary 26th, 2024
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Crypto vending machines have evolved from physical ones accepting Bitcoin for various products, including beer and NFTs, to digital versions like Counterparty's Dispenser. Explore the innovative world of Autonomous Agents (AAs) in Obyte, versatile computer programs handling decentralized tasks seamlessly. Physical vending machines bridge the gap between digital currency and tangible products, while Counterparty dispensers cater to the NFT market. AAs in Obyte offer decentralized and transparent solutions for various applications, from prediction markets to decentralized exchanges. Choose the option that fits your preferences, from tangible transactions to versatile decentralized tools.

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Did you know that we have certain kinds of vending machines in the crypto world too? They were designed to facilitate users' experience in various operations involving trading —of any kind of token or physical product. In other words, you could use them or even create them to buy and sell something, including cryptocurrencies in the process as the product itself or as the payment method.


Several companies have built and installed crypto-related physical vending machines in numerous cities worldwide. However, not every “vending machine” in crypto is physical. We also have digital vending machines to improve our experience. Let’s learn more about them.


Physical Vending Machines + Crypto

Back in 2014, the company American Green was likely the first one to build a Bitcoin-payment-friendly vending machine. To dispense medical marijuana. Due to the nature of the product, the machine also could scan IDs before the purchase, paid with BTC.


Different products and brands would join over the years: to buy beer, Red Bull (with Litecoin), soft drinks, snacks, and much more. Today, it’s even possible to configure regular vending machines, to accept several cryptocurrencies, with the app PayRange. The product inside would depend solely on the owner(s).


Red Bull + Bitcoin vending machine in Paralelni Polis, Prague

After 2022, a new crypto vending physical machine would appear. This time, the tokens weren’t the payment method, but the product. Neon Marketplace created the first-ever vending machine to sell Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) physically; and installed it in New York (USA). They offered two collections in the Solana chain: “Colors” and “Party Pidgeons,” payable by credit card instead of cryptocurrencies.


The users would receive a small package containing a code to redeem their $6 or $421 prize. Sometimes, the package could get stuck in the machine (like in any other vending machine) or the code may be defective. However, it’s considered a beginner-friendly way to start in the crypto world.


Other companies and artists would follow the example and create their own NFT vending machines, including myNFT (London), Masahide Matsuda (Tokyo), Atlas (Malaysia), and the Skull Society (Vancouver). Often, it would be possible to pay in crypto as well, and the machine would stay in place indefinitely. Some other times, this would be just a temporary exhibition at a crypto-related conference or art display.


Digital Dispensers

In 2019, even before the physical versions, a developer recreated the same vending machine process to buy and sell tokens digitally. It was a program inside the Bitcoin-based Counterparty Network, called “Dispenser,” and released by John "Chiguireitor" Villar through the Counterparty Improvement Proposal 21 (CIP21).


Basically, a dispenser in Counterparty is a virtual vending machine, akin to its physical counterpart but instead of doling out sodas, it dispenses digital objects (NFTs or other compatible tokens). Unlike their physical counterparts, these virtual machines are accessible through websites or mobile/desktop applications, presenting the digital item, its quantity, price, and other pertinent details.



Process to create a Counterparty dispenser through Freewallet, from Counterparty forum

Dispensers provide a simple yet efficient mechanism for both creation and use. To create one, a seller requires some compatible assets (created with Counterparty) and configures the virtual dispenser to deliver a desired quantity of tokens at a specified price. Users, on the other hand, access dispensers through direct links, explore available options, and make purchases by sending the exact BTC amount to the provided address, receiving the acquired NFTs promptly.


This user-friendly process eliminates intermediaries, making dispensers an accessible and cost-effective solution for digital item exchange within the Counterparty ecosystem. Dispensers are still based in Bitcoin, though, so the transactions will always depend on the miners —some sort of middlemen.


They’re not smart contracts that mediate between users, but a digital entity by themselves, working independently after the first configuration and until the product is sold out. Another potential issue lies there, though: if the product (the asset) is sold out, and the user isn’t paying attention, they could lose all the funds sent to the dispenser.


Autonomous Agents (AAs)

There is another kind of crypto-related “vending machine,” but this one is more versatile than the others. Similar to smart contracts, Autonomous Agents in Obyte are computer programs, built with code on a distributed ledger. They’re designed to make a specific (and digital) task, but they’re not there to represent a real human “party,” user, or company.


Smart contracts can enforce some pre-set conditions of any accord between users, while Autonomous Agents are a kind of “users” themselves. Automated users, always available to carry on a specific task at the call of a human user. Just like vending machines, only that they have an unalterable code and can’t issue a wrong order or get stuck.



Oswap ETH/GBYTE Autonomous Agent in the DAG Explorer

AAs receive transactions with money and data, delivering a response—monetary tokens and recorded data on the Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG) ledger, free of miners and other middlemen, which makes it more decentralized than other networks. They operate independently, transparently displaying expected responses in the same wallet before completing the transaction. Developed in Oscript, a programming language optimized for safety, AAs enable precise execution of tasks, minimizing errors.


Users can interact with AAs through their Obyte wallets, initiating transactions that are promptly recorded and answered. They serve various purposes: from decentralized exchanges and payment channels to prediction markets and lending apps. So, anyone can interact with the involved Dapp by sending or receiving transactions to and from the AA’s Obyte address.


Developers can also build their own AAs for different purposes, using the proper tools. Some AAs that are deployed on Obyte include the Dapp Bonded Stablecoins, the DEXes ODEX and Oswap, the Obyte Token Registry, the prediction markets platform Prophet, and Kivach — a tool for cascading donations on GitHub.


What to choose?

This is entirely up to you, of course. However, we have to admit that NFT machines, crypto-accepting machines, and digital dispensers (of tokens) have very limited and specific functions, while AAs could be any decentralized tool in the digital realm.


For beginners, physical vending machines that accept or dispense cryptocurrencies offer tangible, real-world products with the convenience of digital currency transactions. These are suitable for those seeking a bridge between the digital and physical realms.


Neon NFT vending machine in NY. Image by Wilfred Chan, The Guardian

Counterparty dispensers, functioning on the Bitcoin ledger, cater to the NFT market and token trading limited to this network. Autonomous Agents in Obyte present a digital, decentralized alternative, excelling in executing rule-based processes for various DeFi applications and beyond. They offer transparency, security, and user-friendly interactions, and could reach several chains if the users bridge their tokens through Counterstake.


And remember, you don’t even have to know what an Autonomous Agent is to use one. As we’ve mentioned above, many interesting applications in Obyte are built with AAs, but they have their own websites with user-friendly interfaces. You’ll just need your wallet and some coins. Ready to try?



Featured Vector Image by vectorjuice / Freepik