The future of grocery shopping has arrived. At least that’s what Amazon hopes. The retail giant’s latest innovation is a physical store called Amazon Go, which allows customers to shop for what they want and then leave — no waiting in line, no checking out. The first Amazon Go location opened on Monday in Seattle, Wash., no details yet about a national rollout.
— Amazon.com (@amazon) January 21, 2018
So how does this walk in/walk out grocery experience work? Well, it kind of sounds like something out of a science fiction movie. Customers download an app onto their phones, which they then scan at turnstiles upon entering the store. As they shop, hundreds of cameras watch them from above, monitoring what they pick up, put down, and put in their bags. As soon as someone picks up an item from the shelf it is added to their virtual cart. If they put it back again, it is immediately removed.
— Business Insider (@businessinsider) January 22, 2018
When customers are done shopping, they simply leave the store with their items. Their Amazon account is charged, a receipt is sent immediately to their phone, and they’re on their way. The app also lets customers know how long they spent shopping — presumably so they can compare it to how long they would have spent at a traditional store.
According to their website, Amazon Go currently carries “ready-to-eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack options” as well as “grocery essentials” like bread and milk, artisan cheeses, and locally made chocolates. It’s more of a convenience store than a supermarket, catering to the professional lunch-break crowd.
Does it work? Well, one woman has already made headlines for accidentally shoplifting a tub of yogurt (the app didn’t register that she’d taken the yogurt off the shelf) but the VP of the company, Gianna Puer, said “it happens so rarely that we didn’t even bother building in a feature for customers to tell us it happened.”
But not everyone is pleased with the new innovation in food shopping. Protestors stood outside the store on opening day, expressing concerns about the loss of jobs stores like these would create. “We’re rejecting the future they’re imposing on us,” protestor Joy Carter told Chicago Tribune. Privacy experts also have concerns about what data is actually being gathered by the store’s cameras, and how it is being saved and used.
Amazon hasn’t offered any specific information on what the cameras are actually monitoring. Their website says they use “the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning,” but doesn’t go into detail about how all that translates into their “Just Walk Out Technology.”
Most people, though, just seem to want to try it out. The store had a good turnout on opening day and shoppers seemed pleased with their experience. “You could just grab stuff and walk out. It’s such a foreign concept to me… It feels like I’m shoplifting,” Melody Coleman, a freelance user-interface designer who lives in Seattle, told The Atlantic.
Others were intrigued by the technology. “I want to know how they track it,” Jing Chou, an engineering student from China, told Chicago Tribune. “And if you bring something back, how they know.”
Amazon Go’s Seattle location is sure to get lots of traffic in the next few weeks, but only time will tell if this kind of store is really the future of food shopping. If you happen to be in Seattle, the store is located at 2131 7th Ave, near the corner of 7th and Blanchard, and is open 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.