Sony Vending Machine

Sony is unveiling an automated kiosk today that dispenses digital cameras, DVDs and MP3 players the same way a vending machine rolls out a can of soda — quickly and at all hours of the day.  In a partnership with San Francisco’s Zoom Systems, Sony has set up an automated kiosk for a test run at Santa Rosa Plaza that will carry about 50 Sony products, from a pack of batteries for about $5 to a PlayStation Portable for $249.

The electronics-maker hopes the Sony-branded kiosks will make it easier for consumers to pick up its products.

In addition to Santa Rosa, it has set up similar kiosks at the Mall of Georgia in Atlanta and the Flatirons Mall in Boulder, Colo. , with plans for seven more in airports, malls and grocery stores this summer.

“The timing is absolutely right,” said Joe Stinziano, senior vice president of Sony Electronics. “Consumers more than ever before are starting to get comfortable with the self-shopping idea. … When you come across a machine like this, you can learn more about the products you want. Within three clicks and two minutes and a swipe of your credit card, you’re in and out and done. You don’t have to worry about waiting for a sales clerk or if it’s in stock.”

After a customer selects a Sony product on a touch screen and pays for it with a credit card, a robotic arm in the kiosk pick up the product and delivers it. Sensors ensure the item reaches the shopper before the credit card is charged. The machine also includes security features to prevent would-be thieves from breaking into it.

The kiosks will also be designed in Sony’s signature style and carry the Sony brand. A 20-inch LCD display will run Sony promotions, such as trailers for Sony movies like “The Da Vinci Code.” If the kiosks are successful, Sony will install them in more places.

Zoom kiosks generate about $1,000 to $15,000 in revenue per square foot a year, compared with about $300 to $500 per square foot for most traditional retail stores, said Zoom chief executive Gower Smith.

He said the kiosks selling consumer electronic products tend to generate the most sales, from $6,000 to $15,000 per square foot annually.