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Will that be cash, credit, squats or hugs?

  • This week's 5 most fantastic innovations and ideas!
  • Vending machines built to accept unusual forms of payment
  • Also this week: New Microsoft app aims to bring 3D-printing to the masses
Will that be cash, credit, squats or hugs?

Editor's note: Karyn Lu is Turner Broadcasting's manager of New Media Insights & Inspiration. Each week, she scouts out amazing innovations, cutting-edge technology and, well, just really awesome stuff. Before it goes mainstream, it's going to be one of her 5 Things From The Future!

What if instead of money, you could pay for goods or services with wildly alternative currencies -- say a hug, or a tackle, or calories burned? Over the past year or so, brands around the world have been having a lot of fun with this creative space. One of my favorite recent examples comes out of Moscow, where you can pay for a subway ride with squats. That's right, I said squats.

Right now in Moscow, leading up to the February 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, subway riders can either pay 30 rubles for a single ride or "pay" with 30 squats. A special machine outfitted with a camera counts down your squats, and when you reach zero, it dispenses your ticket. Not a bad deal, right? You get a free ride, and you're 30 squats healthier, to boot.

The stunt is meant to promote both the Olympics and healthier living overall. Alexander Zhukov, president of the Russian Olympic Committee, says, “We wanted to show that the Olympic Games is not just an international competition that people watch on TV, but that it is also about getting everyone involved in a sporting lifestyle.”

In a similar vein, in Dubai, Adidas has set up a series of special treadmill vending machines that reward runners with treats based on calories burned. Part of a stunt to promote a new shoe, the execution is based on the notion that rewards are a great motivation for exercise -- hence the more calories you burn, the bigger the reward.

If you like these stories, I have a few other favorite examples that are worth mentioning: a vending machine in Argentina that dispenses beer in return for a rugby tackle, a Coca-Cola machine that gives you a soda in return for a hug, and a really funny one out of Australia -- just how far will people go for a box of free rice snacks? You'd be surprised.

We can expect to see marketers playing in this space for some time to come. Consumers get a fun, unique experience, and brands get plenty of social buzz. Everyone wins all around.

And here are more of this week's amazing Things From the Future!

-- So easy a kid can do it: Microsoft brings 3D printing mainstream with this (relatively) simple app.

-- But not all 3D-printing is for kids: Look, now you can print lingerie!

-- The Internet of Things: This one device will let your appliances communicate with you.

-- But what about the smell? One way to make subways sound better? Turnstiles that play musical notes.

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