At the new Amazon Go store in Seattle, the retail giant is attempting to change the way we shop. No more waiting in line, no more cashiers and no more cash registers. All customers have to do is walk in, pick up what they want and walk out.
Amazon isn’t giving away groceries for free. Everything you take from the store is tracked, linked to your account and charged as soon as you leave. It offers all the convenience of online shopping, transplanted to the real world.
Walk in, walk out shopping is enabled by many of the technologies used when developing driverless vehicles: computer vision, the fusion of sensory data and deep learning. Combined, Amazon refers to it as ‘Just Walk Out Technology’.
The system detects products that have been moved, places them in your virtual cart and knows once you’ve left the premises. Entry to the store is guarded by a row of gates that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever used a train or gone through airport security. All shoppers need to get through is an Amazon account, the Amazon Go app and a new enough smartphone.
Staff still have a role to play in the Amazon Go store
Despite the latest camera technology, computer vision and machine learning, one thing you can count on is that underage kids will continue to try and buy alcohol. That’s just one example of why staff are still needed in the Amazon Go store.
Apart from the associate who checks IDs by the wines and spirits, Amazon Go also has staff restocking shelves and handling customers’ technical problems.
This shift suggests that full automation of the retail workforce isn’t as close as some might think. The executive heading up Amazon Go, Gianna Puerini, said, “We’ve just put associates on different kinds of tasks where we think it adds to the customer experience.”
Plans for the future
Amazon has been secretive about the technology powering the new Go store in Seattle. There is also speculation over whether this is only the beginning of ‘Just Walk Out’ shopping.
Speaking to the New York Times, Puerini claimed there were “no plans” no integrate the concept with one of Amazon’s recent purchases, grocery chain Whole Foods.
It’s possible that the retail giant will seek to sell the technology to supermarkets around the world. It seems we will have to wait to find out the true price of convenience.