It’s a little like shopping online, only with a more instant gratification.

The new ZoomSystems robotic stores stationed at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) are stand alone retail stores in which consumers can purchase a diverse selection of items through a touch-screen interface. In short, they are like high-tech robotic vending machines.

IAH currently has a total of five machines in Terminals A, C and D, equipped with consumer favorites such as Proactiv Solutions, Apple iPods and a variety of Motorola gadgets and gizmos. Passengers select their merchandise and swipe their credit cards to pay.

“This program (ZoomSystems) allows us to expand our retail offering to the traveling public by adding shopping locations in smaller areas,” says Randy Goodman, commercial development manager for the Houston Airport System. “These stores offer products we do not offer already to our very diverse passenger base.”

The first robotic stores were installed in June of 2007 and have been a hit with passengers ever since.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Ryan Camden, a traveler passing through IAH recently. “I forgot my earphones at home, so I think it’s very convenient to have something like this when you’re traveling.”

The stores, which somewhat resemble your regular soda vending machines, require little manpower to operate. With the user-friendly touch screen interfaces, passengers can shop, purchase and receive their product in less than five minutes.

At IAH, concessions operator, HMSHost works with ZoomSystems to make these robots available for Houston passengers.

“We’re (so) happy with the response we’ve seen from travelers, that we’re looking at increasing by two more machines,” says John DePriest, general manager for HMSHost. “I even caught people taking photos next to the machines.”

The robotic machines specialize in three different types of products.

One dispenses goods from the celebrity-endorsed Proactiv Solution line; another houses more than 25 Motorola gadgets such as cell phones, chargers and handsets; while the third specializes in the Apple iPod line, as well as in digital cameras, camcorders, travel power adapters and much more.

IAH is one of only nine airports in the United States to have these self-serve stores available for passengers.