Amazon today opened up its checkout-free grocery store "Amazon Go" to the Seattle public, continuing a plan that the company says has the potential to "dramatically alter brick-and-mortar retail" (via Reuters).
The new grocery store experience begins when customers walk through a turnstile and scan the Amazon Go app on their iOS [Direct Link] or Android device, which notifies the system that the customer is now in the store and shopping. Then, when they pick up an item and add it to their basket, cameras in the store and weight sensors on shelves associate each product to the customer who picked it up, and adds it to a virtual shopping list.
This tallies all of the items picked up by any one customer (and items returned to shelves are deducted from the total), so when they're done shopping all that needs to be done is to walk back out of the store through the turnstile. Amazon Go then charges the credit card users previously synced to the app and sends a receipt to the app's inbox, replacing the need to stand in a traditional checkout line.
Gianna Puerini, vice president of Amazon Go, said in an interview that the store worked very well throughout the test phase, thanks to four years of prior legwork.
“This technology didn’t exist,” 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 over one year after Amazon began testing the store with employees in December 2016, a time in which the company learned how to fine tune the experience, according to people familiar with the tests. The camera system became better at identifying people with similar body types, and learned from the "havoc" caused by kids in the store who moved items to incorrect places on the weight-sensing shelves.
The Seattle location is located within Amazon's office building in the city, and right now the company isn't confirming when it will expand Amazon Go to more cities. However, it did state that there are "no plans" to introduce the technology into Whole Foods, which it acquired in 2017.
For anyone in the city, you can visit Amazon Go Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m., with food items ranging from dairy to ready-made Amazon Meal Kits and locally made chocolates.