Amazon’s innovative, checkout-free convenience store concept, Amazon Go, has opened to the public in Seattle.
Located in the base of an existing Amazon office building, the 1,800-square-foot (167-square-meter) store offers grocery and convenience items. To begin shopping, customers simply scan an Amazon Go smartphone app and pass through a turnstile.
Using machine learning, computer vision and artificial intelligence technologies (incorporated into the software powering cameras and weight sensors), the store can then track the actions of customers as they remove items from the shelves, creating a virtual shopping list as they go. When a customer is finished shopping, they simply exit the store through the turnstiles and the user’s Amazon account is automatically charged.
Amazon believes the concept to be the future of brick-and-mortar retail, as the technology will cut out several minutes from the shopping experience. And while the store will still feature a full slate of employees including chefs preparing ready-to-eat foods and customer assistance associates, cutting out cashiers may allow for lower overall operating costs, savings which can in turn be passed along to customers in the form of price cuts.
“This technology didn’t exist,” said Puerini said, walking through the Seattle store. “It was really advancing the state of the art of computer vision and machine learning.”
“If you look at these products, you can see they’re super similar,” she said of two near-identical Starbucks drinks next to each other on a shelf. One had light cream and the other had regular, and Amazon’s technology learned to tell them apart."
The official public opening comes one year after the store began trial testing with employees. Over that time, the system was able to fine tune to better identify individuals and recognize when items were put back in incorrect locations throughout the store. A still kinks may still need to be worked out, however, as several Twitter users have already reported the system failing to charge them for certain items:
For now, the concept is still in a public trial phase, as the company has not confirmed whether it will expand Amazon Go into any future locations. They also have stated that there are no current plans to introduce the technology into Whole Foods, which was acquired by Amazon last year.