For over a year now, there have been persistent rumors that Amazon was serious about opening up brick-and-mortar stores focused on grocery shopping. Today, Amazon revealed its hand: a real store coming to Seattle in 2017 that will let you scan your phone, walk around, put food in your bag, and walk out — no cashier or automated checkout machine needed.
The store, judging from the video, has a very “office worker on a lunch break” vibe — lots of premade items and meal kits. Once you’re inside, the Amazon Go system will be able to tell when you pick up items (or put them back) through a mixture of what the company is calling “computer vision, deep learning algorithms, and sensor fusion.”
Which is not extremely informative! My best guess is that Amazon will use a mixture of radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags (already used in many retail stores to prevent shoplifting) and QR codes on your phone for the grunt work, while having some sort of AI-assisted oversight to make sure nobody is getting charged when they shouldn’t be — or is not being charged when they should. But that could be completely off-base; Amazon isn’t revealing much beyond that. The first store will open up in Seattle, Washington, and is currently open to Amazon employees only.
This food-focused retail spot represents another part of Amazon’s growing retail ambitions. The online-shopping giant already has a brick-and-mortar book store in Seattle, with expansions planned for Chicago, New York City, and Portland. It’s also working to set up pop-up shops to show off its growing line of consumer hardware devices.
But this push into food is especially interesting. At the same time that grocery-store chains are suddenly scrambling to meet consumer demand for online food shopping, Amazon is diving into the prepared-foods side of things (one of the biggest profit drivers for traditional grocery stores) with an AI-enhanced version of the Automat.