Could Amazon’s ‘cashier-free’ grocery store be the future of retail?

Have you ever wanted to walk out of the grocery store without paying? Now you can – sort of.

Amazon Inc. has opened a new grocery store in its hometown of Seattle without any lines or checkout counters. The 1,800 square-foot retail space, dubbed Amazon Go, allows shoppers to grab the items they would like to purchase and leave – while being automatically billed to their Amazon account.

The tech giant makes this proposition work by using the same technology seen in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning. By using its “Just Walk Out” technology, the store automatically detects when items are taken from or returned to shelves, and keeps track of them for shoppers in a virtual cart.

Once a customer leaves the store, their Amazon account is automatically charged and a receipt is sent. All you need is an Amazon account, a compatible smartphone, and the free Amazon Go app, as the store isn’t exclusive to Amazon Prime customers.

If you’re concerned about privacy, Amazon Go may not be the store for you, as shoppers will be watched by more cameras than ever before. Additionally, the company will use your shopping experience, combined with your current Amazon purchase and browsing history, to further perfect its recommendation system – even if you don’t buy or purchase an item, it will take notice of what drew your eye.

Despite the automation and removal of grocery store clerks, shoppers will still see their fellow humans, as robots have yet to take over the stocking or cooking roles.

And this is just the beginning. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Seattle-based giant plans to ultimately open 2,000 grocery and convenience stores across the US in multiple formats. To start, the company intends to open a series of smaller drive-thru stores and larger European-style discount chains, two of which are currently under construction in the Seattle area. Another option is an IKEA-like discount chain involving 30,000 to 40,000 square-foot stores where customers could order in-store via touchscreens or online, then pick up the finished packages curbside.

At the Amazon Go grocery store, shoppers will find everything they’d expect, on top of ready-to-eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack options made fresh by on-site chefs and local kitchens and bakeries. New products Amazon will be introducing to the public include its chef-designed Amazon Meal kits, which come prepared with all the ingredients you may need to make a meal for two people in 30 minutes.

Currently, Amazon Go is in beta and only available to Amazon employees. It’ll open to the public in early 2017, before expanding worldwide.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Alex Radu
Alex Radu
is a Video Producer for IT World Canada. When not writing or making videos about the tech industry, you can find him reading, watching TV/movies, or watching the Lakers rebuild with one eye open.

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