ecoATM, a firm based in San Diego, thinks it has created. It has devised and deployed in several American cities a series of ATM-like devices that will automatically analyse your mobile phone, MP3 player or phone charger, and then make you an offer for it. These machines will give you cash in hand or, if you prefer, send the money as a donation to the charity of your choice. The hope is that this hassle-free approach will appeal to people who can’t be bothered to recycle their old phone when buying a new one.
After taking fingerprints and driving-licence details (to discourage crooks from using them to fence stolen goods), ecoATM’s kiosks employ a mixture of computer vision and electronic testing (they will automatically present users with the correct cable and connector) to perform a trick that even the most committed gadget fan might struggle with—telling apart each of the thousands of models of mobile phones, chargers and MP3 players that now exist. They can even make a reasonable guess about how well-used (or damaged) a device is, which can affect its resale value. Any mistakes the machine does make are logged and used to improve accuracy in future.