Amazon uses driverless car tech to build supermarket of the future

Amazon has decided shops don’t need checkouts anymore, only smartphones.

It’s not often you see online retailers make the move to bricks and mortar, but Amazon is planning on doing just that by opening a beta concept store requiring zero checkouts, no queues, no cash or anything.

Amazon Go is based on IoT, computer vision, a bucket load of sensors and lots of other cleverness that can monitor who is taking which product from which shelves. Those products are properly identified by the gamut of technology running behind the scenes, then added to a bill on the customer’s smartphone.

It’s purely a proof of concept store in Seattle at the moment, with only Amazon employees being eligible until it opens a public beta mode early next year.

Westworld Oliver BellIncoming customers simply scan their phone on the way in, then lots of IoT and computer vision does the rest. On the face of things, it looks like a perfectly normal and modern shopfront. Rip away that shiny façade, however, and you’ll be presented with a robotic mesh, much like the hosts out of TV show Westworld. (Right, credit HBO, @1oliverbell)

“Four years ago we asked ourselves: what if we could create a shopping experience with no lines and no checkout?” pondered Amazon when announcing Amazon Go. “Could we push the boundaries of computer vision and machine learning to create a store where customers could simply take what they want and go? Our answer to those questions is Amazon Go and Just Walk Out Shopping.”

While Amazon has an immensely strong brand with a fiercely loyal user-base, one can’t help but wonder if this this PoC store is more of a demo to prove the feasibility of the store as a white label solution.

Amazon could capture the entirety of a brand new market by providing a functioning, checkout-less supermarket-as-a-service (SuperaaS for short – we’re coining that one!); for, say, Sainsbury’s if you’re British, Walmart if you’re American, Carrefour if you’re French, or <insert supermarket here> if you’re <insert nationality here>.

Amazon says a lot of the technology has been appropriated from the sort of cleverness we’re seeing being used in the self-driving cars space. It also goes to show how technology being pioneered principally by the telecoms sector is being appropriated by other industries – some of which may have profound impact on the way society operates in the next generation.

Maybe it’s realised that people like visiting a physical store (sort of), instead of having an impossible number of adhesive buttons stuck all over the damn house.

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