Amazon opened a new store downtown Seattle on Monday, and it's like no other store out there. Amazon Go has no cashiers and no checkout lines, offering a glimpse into what a world without human labor will look like.
The first clue that there’s something unusual about Amazon’s store of the future hits you right at the front door. It feels as if you are entering a subway station. A row of gates guard the entrance to the store, known as Amazon Go, allowing in only people with the store’s smartphone app.
Once inside, shoppers will encounter an 1,800-square foot glorified convenience store, with the usual mini-mart fare alongside products one might find at Whole Foods.
How does 'The Store Of The Future' make do without cashiers and checkout lines?
Shoppers leave the store through those same gates, without pausing to pull out a credit card. Their Amazon account automatically gets charged for what they take out the door.
Every time customers grab an item off a shelf, Amazon says the product is automatically put into the shopping cart of their online account. If customers put the item back on the shelf, Amazon removes it from their virtual basket.
Though precise details of how the system operates are not publicly available, Amazon says it is able to track every item in the store without using a chipping system - the store can see what customers pick up and put back.
The only sign of the technology that makes this possible floats above the store shelves — arrays of small cameras, hundreds of them throughout the store. Amazon won’t say much about how the system works, other than to say it involves sophisticated computer vision and machine learning software. Translation: Amazon’s technology can see and identify every item in the store, without attaching a special chip to every can of soup and bag of trail mix.
If the technology Amazon is using goes mainstream, cashiers will likely see their jobs slide quietly into history. But Amazon says that doesn't mean job losses - simply job changes. Employees at Amazon Go will restock shelves, help customers with any technical issues that might arise, help people find what they're looking for, and check IDs for alcohol purchases, among other tasks.
“We’ve just put associates on different kinds of tasks where we think it adds to the customer experience,” [Gianna Puerini, the executive in charge of Amazon Go] said.
As of now, Amazon is silent on whether or not it will open more Amazon Go stores, or if it will use the technology inside its recently-acquired Whole Foods stores.
There’s even speculation that Amazon could sell the system to other retailers, much as it sells its cloud computing services to other companies. For now, visitors to Amazon Go may want to watch their purchases: Without a register staring them in the face at checkout, it’s easy to overspend.