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Amazon makes retail automation tech available to everyone else

Novel technology that promises to make cashiers a thing of the past is now being offered by Amazon to other retailers.

Amazon has become one of the biggest companies in the world by solving first world retail problems such as having to leave the house and delayed gratification. That same devotion to optimising the customer experience has more recently leaked from etail to bricks-and-mortar in the form of the Amazon Go cashierless store.

The technology that enables Amazon to have shops without any staff in them, without getting ripped off, is called Just Walk Out. Today Amazon announced it’s offering the tech to other retailers in a move that could not only add significantly more cash to Amazon’s already obscene pile, but significantly disrupt the retail experience once more.

On the surface Just Walk Out looks incredibly simple. The busy punter just swipes their credit card to enter the store, grabs a bunch of stuff and then clears off without having to queue for a checkout or even use one of those DIY checkouts. The smart shop just knows what they’ve walked out with and charges them accordingly, automatically emailing the receipt.

“We built Just Walk Out technology leveraging the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning,” explains the site. “Since launching Amazon Go years ago, many retailers have expressed an interest in offering similar checkout-free shopping experiences to their customers.”

It looks like cameras form the backbone of the technology, augmented by things like pressure sensors and RFID. The cameras are presumably handy for things like facial recognition as well as capturing footage of anyone who reckons they can beat the system and nick stuff. Taking items off the shelf and then putting them back isn’t a problem, apparently.

Amazon seems to have spent its entire history trying to destroy retail jobs and if Just Walk Out takes off this could be its biggest victory yet. The mobile commerce implications could be positive, however, as retailers will presumably insist customers use their app to access the store, all the better to track their buying habits and offer them things they didn’t even know they wanted.

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