On Monday, Amazon decided shoplifting was a pretty cool concept. The company introduced the world to Amazon Go, a futuristic grocery store system that eliminates checkout lines and cash registers. If you’re a grocery store employee, it’d be best for you to stop reading now. If you’re a shopper who despises checkout lines and the whole shopping experience, read on. The breakthrough leverages computer vision, deep learning, and sensor fusion to create a seamless purchasing experience that will either feel like legal shoplifting or a scene from Minority Report, depending on your outlook.
The first Amazon Go store is in Seattle, Washington, and opens early next year. Amazon wants its stores to be the Teslas of grocery stores, as well. “Our checkout-free shopping experience is made possible by the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars,” its website says, and it isn’t being dishonest: Computer vision, deep learning, and sensor fusion are indeed three technologies fundamental to autonomous vehicles. Turns out they also work well for autonomous grocery stores.
While Amazon and other big players have been working on selfie payments for a while, the app will verify customers when they walk in the store, rather than the stores themselves relying on facial recognition to do so. So while the store knowing exactly who you are when you walk in might be creepy, we haven’t quite reached Minority Report yet.
The concept is fairly straightforward, but designing the physical, function stores will undoubtedly be quite the project. Upon entering the store, the customer checks in with the Amazon Go app, then picks up his or her groceries. The smart store tracks your every move and logs every item you toss in your bag. “Our Just Walk Out technology automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart,” Amazon says. “When you’re done shopping, you can just leave the store. Shortly after, we’ll charge your Amazon account and send you a receipt.” No longer must you suffer through a long line at the end of an exhausting workday, then lifelessly smile and nod to the words “‘Have a nice day’ in a voice that is the absolute voice of death.”
Robots have indeed begun to take our jobs, and the trend will only continue. Soon, once we’re all sporting augmented reality headsets, we’ll just have to look and buy. For now, though, Amazon Go stores should give us more than enough of the future’s fix. With Jeff Bezos at the helm, though, more should be in store soon.