The first Amazon Go automated store located within the internet giant’s headquarters in Seattle opened its doors to the public Monday.
The main feature of the store is there are no cashiers. When you arrive, you scan the Amazon Go app on your iPhone or Android phone at a turnstile to register your presence and enter the store. After that, everything you pick up is automatically tracked by the store’s cameras and charged to your Amazon account when you walk out. It all happens without you having to check in with a store employee or physically make a payment.
In late 2016, Amazon Go was a surprise announcement from the company, right in the middle of the 2016 holiday shopping season. It’s an 1,800-square-foot convenience store, built at the street-level entrance to its office headquarters, that uses deep-learning algorithms and computer-vision-enabled cameras to let people grab what they want and walk out.
Amazon Go, was supposed to let the public in last year. The Wall Street Journal reported in March that technological problems, such as issues tracking a lot of people at once, caused Amazon to delay its public store opening.
The premise of the store opens up the possibility that you may never have to wait in a cashier line again — or even use a self-checkout machine. At the same time, the store raises concerns about the future of work or the local corner store, and worries that Amazon is slowly replacing humans with technology.
In an recent interview, Amazon said it employs the same number of people at Amazon Go that you’d find at a comparably sized convenience store but instead of cashiers, Amazon has more people restocking shelves and preparing meals.
The store has actually been open for the past year, but only to Amazon employees. Monday was the first-time members of the public could shop there. You don’t need an Amazon Prime account or any sort of special verification. All you need is a regular Amazon account, the Amazon Go app, and to be in Seattle. The store is open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday.
How it works
Amazon has been pretty quiet about the specifics of the technology powering its Go store. It has mentioned the use of “the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning. These components make up Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology which is capable of detecting which products are taken and which are returned to shelves.
Sensors built into the shelving help detect what items have been selected. Similar to hotel mini bars where you’re charged for whatever items you remove from the fridge. There’s also hundreds of cameras, which look like black boxes, covering the ceilings of the store to keep track of what you pick up and put back down.
Some industry observers expect Amazon will eventually roll out Amazon Go’s technology to its Whole Foods stores, giving the company a big advantage over competing grocery chains. At this point in time, Amazon Go is still in its infancy so don’t hold your breath waiting for this roll out to happen.
Here’s a link to a video of the store in operation.