This gives the phrase, “Big Brother” a new meaning you could have never thought up. Imagine doing your grocery shopping and never interacting with another human being. Amazon is experimenting with a new app based, futuristic retail grocer.
Inside is an 1,800-square foot mini-market packed with shelves of food that you can find in a lot of other convenience stores — soda, potato chips, ketchup. It also has some food usually found at Whole Foods, the supermarket chain that Amazon owns.
But the technology that is also inside, mostly tucked away out of sight, enables a shopping experience like no other. There are no cashiers or registers anywhere. Shoppers leave the store through those same gates, without pausing to pull out a credit card. Their Amazon account automatically gets charged for what they take out the door.
… There are no shopping carts or baskets inside Amazon Go. Since the checkout process is automated, what would be the point of them anyway? Instead, customers put items directly into the shopping bag they’ll walk out with.
Every time customers grab an item off a shelf, Amazon says the product is automatically put into the shopping cart of their online account. If customers put the item back on the shelf, Amazon removes it from their virtual basket.
… The only sign of the technology that makes this possible floats above the store shelves — arrays of small cameras, hundreds of them throughout the store. Amazon won’t say much about how the system works, other than to say it involves sophisticated computer vision and machine learning software. Translation: Amazon’s technology can see and identify every item in the store, without attaching a special chip to every can of soup and bag of trail mix.
The new retail plan by Amazon has an increased focus on pricing, and Amazon says they won’t mark up prices to compensate for the convenience of just walking out.
Fresh off of the $13.7 billion acquisition of grocery chain Whole Foods, Amazon says it has no plans to install this technology in those stores. And even though the store doesn’t employ any cashiers, Amazon downplays the effect on jobs.
“There’s a kitchen full of chefs and cooks making the things that are on the shelf right now, and as you look around the store, all these folks in orange are all here to help make customers’ experience better. So we’re just shifting the kind of work that folks do,” Puerini told NBC News.
There are over 13 million cashiers employed across the country, but if this takes off they may need to transition to different, more techy jobs.