Imagine a person walking into a grocery store, grabbing a pre-packed sandwich and a soda, and walking out without ever going to a checkout line.
It sounds like someone just committed a crime, but it may very well become the way we shop for groceries in the future.
Amazon opened a new grocery store on Monday that aims to allow shoppers to leave the store, being charged on their way out without even pulling out their wallet. “Amazon Go” debuted in Seattle, Washington, with only a few small glitches here and there that seem easy to correct in the near future.
How does it work? Amazon shoppers log in as soon as they enter the store, using their smart phones through a gate, much like someone would flash a ticket through a train queue. Then, the customer simply seeks out what they’re shopping for, grabbing it off the shelf, and carries it out of the store. Customers can even put items into purses or burlap bags if they want to, with no concern over being accused of shoplifting.
The stores use surveillance tools that allow cameras throughout the building to monitor your activity. Using facial and other recognition technologies, a note is made every time you pick an item off of a shelf, and then the item is added to a personal receipt the store keeps for you. And if you change your mind about an item, putting it back on the shelf removes it from your record.
When you’re all done, you simply exit the store, and your Amazon account charges your credit card for the bill. Purchases involving alcohol are the only ones that require a store employee to be involved.
There are a few bugs still to be worked out — in the initial testing phase, some of the technologies thought individuals with similar body shapes were the same people, and children removing items from one shelf and putting them on another caused issues as well — but for the most part, the technology allows anyone who has an Amazon account to simply “log into” the store, go inside, and go out, without ever having to wait through checkout lines.
In fact, the only lines on Monday were from people lining up to get inside the store.
More stores are planned for the future, but exactly where they’ll be is unknown at this point. Still, this amazing technology aims to make life more convenient for many people who hate the chore of going grocery shopping, yours truly among them.