For more than 30 years, consumers have obtained music and movies written to polycarbonate discs. CD, DVD and now Blu-ray discs are recognizable across the world as a cheap and pretty reliable carrier for large volumes of digital data.
While it may take a while before Blu-ray takes its final breaths, CDs and DVDs are already on borrowed time. For the younger generation already accustomed to storing huge amounts of data on tiny MicroSD cards and USB sticks, a plastic disc carrying content is almost as outdated as a vinyl record.
With this in mind, millions of consumers would welcome the idea of getting their movies in convenient formats such as AVI or MP4. This would enable them to freely move content from device to device, without having to spend more money. Of course, entertainment companies don’t like that idea at all, especially when it comes to movies.
That’s where SwiftMedia comes in, and it’s a sight to behold.
Spotted by a TorrentFreak reader in a shopping mall in Ethiopia, this bright yellow kiosk looks like an ATM. However, on closer inspection it reveals itself to be a self-service media machine that does everything that RedBox can do (and more) without a plastic disc in sight.
A SwiftMedia terminal in situ (credit)
“At the beginning of this year, All Mart (the Walmart equivalent here) brought in a new machine. It’s basically a monitor with a USB port but shaped like an ATM. It’s called SwiftMedia and there’s a guy who ‘maintains’ it,” our source explains.
“Basically you go to this very big store and you approach the machine and you plug in a USB drive. The screen will turn on and it will let you browse through a massive archive of movies.”
As mentioned earlier, this is a completely disc-less system, meaning that transfers of all content purchased from the machine end up on a customer-provided USB stick. Needless to say, DRM and copyright protection aren’t high on the agenda for this unusual and innovative machine.
Prices are cheap too, with packages available for 25, 50 and 100 birr ($1, $2 and $3). Feature movies reportedly cost between 3 and 5 birr (13 to 22 cents) depending on the movie release date, with older movies costing more. Documentaries weigh in at the top of the range with single songs and TV shows costing 13 cents.
“At first I assumed these movies had their rights lifted or something because well, you know, but then I later found out that the movies I had first seen were just there on release day,” our source continues.
“Apparently the maintenance guy torrents all day and stores the data on his drive, the drive shown by the SwiftMedia monitor. This would not have been a big deal as this is Ethiopia and the allegedly democratic government has bigger issues.”
Of course, something like this wouldn’t last five minutes in the West and certainly wouldn’t appear in a shopping mall, let alone Walmart. So TorrentFreak contacted Escape Computing, the company that appears to be behind the project, to find out more about their enterprise.
At the time of publication we had received no response, but we did manage to track down a job listing posted last year where the company sought an individual to act in a sales and technical capacity.
It’s not clear whether the position was filled but whoever got the job certainly has a unique role to fulfill in this unusual yet somewhat innovative project.