Jeff Bezos and Amazon are at it again. This time it's not books, and it's not drones. They're reinventing grocery stores.

Leveraging technology akin to self-driving cars, Amazon Go just opened the doors on its first checkout-free, cashier-free, and line-free grocery store in Seattle. Amazon's calling it "just walk out technology."

Four years ago, Amazon decided to tackle an everyday problem. The most time-consuming aspect of grocery shopping is often waiting to check out. Even with self-checkout kiosks, the lines can be brutal. There's always that person just in front of you who can't seem to figure out how to scan a carton of eggs.

What if you could pick up what you needed off the grocery store shelves and just walk out? That's exactly the concept Amazon is testing with this 1,800-square-foot grocery store.

Here's how it works. Customers scan the Go app as they enter the store, which opens their virtual cart. Then, super smart technology tracks which items each customer takes off the shelves. They won't be charged if they remove an item but ultimately decide not to purchase. All they have to do is put it back. The sensors in the shelves will detect that the item has been replaced. A combination of computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning allows customers to simply grab what they want and leave the store. Amazon automatically charges their accounts for what they walk out with. An itemized receipt gets sent to their phone.

The Go shelves are presently stocked with ready-to-eat meals; grocery staples like milk, bread, and cheese; and Amazon Meal Kits, which launched last spring. To start, shopping privileges are limited to employees as Amazon tests the concept in action. The company plans to open the store to the public in early 2017.

While the checkout process doesn't require human staff, humans do prepare the breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack items stocked on the grocery store's shelves. And clearly, humans have conceived, built, coded, and tested the technology that makes the Go shopping concept work. If this redesigned grocery store of the future catches on and expands to other markets, Amazon has gotten one step closer to total world domination by weaving technology into IRL shopping experiences.

Published on: Dec 5, 2016
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