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First-time shoppers at Seattle-based Amazon Go may feel as though they are stealing. That’s because the 1,800 square-foot grocery store, which opened its doors to the public on January 22, has no cashiers or even checkout counters. Instead, as the name indicates, customers merely grab what they need and go! But before you start celebrating, the goods are not free — the cost of the purchase(s) is/are calculated electronically using Amazon Inc.’s proprietary “Just Walk Out” technology.
The process is simple. Upon entering the store, shoppers “sign-in” by scanning their smartphones on a turnstile-like block. Every item selected gets added to the bill automatically. If the customer changes his/her mind, all he/she has to do is return the purchase to the shelf, and it will be removed from the final tab. Though consumers will not find everything they need, they will be able to stock-up on basics like bread, milk, and beverages. There are also numerous ready-to-eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner options made by chefs in the on-site kitchen. Those that prefer to cook at home can select from the wide variety of gourmet Amazon Meal Kits.
Once the customer exits the store, the system processes the purchases and charges the cost to their Amazon account. Within seconds, the client is notified of the transaction with a digital receipt that outlines each item bought, as well as the time spent in the store. The accurate tracking is possible thanks to multiple smart cameras that monitor everything the shopper is doing. Amazon Vice President Dilip Kumar explains, "Cameras figure out which interactions you have with the shelves. Computer vision figures out which items are taken. Machine-learning algorithms also determine which item it is." The company asserts that the system is so accurate that shoplifting is virtually impossible. And they should know, given that Amazon employees have been shopping there since 2015!
The automated store has raised some concern about the jobs of the over 3.5 million cashiers in America. However, Amazon officials say they have nothing to worry about because human employees are not being displaced. They are simply assigned other essential tasks, like preparing meals, restocking shelves, assisting customers, and solving technical issues. Besides, the company has no plans of expanding Amazon Go beyond this single store, which is located just a few minutes away from its headquarters.