In a video published online today, Amazon revealed that it plans to open grocery stores with no cashiers or self-checkout booths - users simply check-in to the store using an app, after which all items that they remove from shelves are automatically recorded (and entered into their virtual carts); checkout happens automatically when shoppers leave the store. The new technology - termed Amazon Go - is in some ways similar to what runs self-driving cars: computer vision and learning technologies.
Amazon stores are expected to sell prepared food and standard grocery-store items such as milk, bread, and eggs. They will also carry Amazon's new "Amazon Meal Kit," which contains ingredients needed to make a meal for two people in half-an-hour. Amazon's first store is in Seattle, and at 1,800 square feet, is relatively small compared with supermarkets; of course, eliminating the checkout area certainly helps conserve space.At present the flagship store is open to only Amazon employees participating in the firm's Beta program; it is expected to open to the public early next year.
Amazon Go may seem like a small advancement, but for many people checkout lines are the most annoying part of grocery shopping - eliminating lines could be a big draw for many customers. The new technology could be a game changer when it comes to retail sales -- both in terms of shopper experience, and in terms of eliminating many jobs.
Of course, a store that tracks all purchases creates privacy and cybersecurity concerns. It should be noted, however, that even before Amazon Go many stores track via loyalty programs what people buy, and it is likely that people have already acclimated to many of the risks that Amazon Go presents.
According to a report in Business Insider earlier this year, Amazon plans to open 20 brick-and-mortar grocery stores over the next two years, and possibly up to 2,000 stores over the next decade.
While the new technology may seem shocking, Recode did discuss a related Amazon patent filing almost two years ago. Amazon has apparently delivered on its plans.
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