The straight-forwardly named “Just Walk Out” technology ought to give you a pretty good idea of what Amazon Go is all about. Launching in beta this year to Amazon employees at a single 1,800 square foot location in its native Seattle, Go is a “new kind of store with no checkout required.”
Customers use the Go app to enter the store, and once inside, some combination of sensors, computer vision and deep learning keep track of what’s taken off and returned to shelves inside a virtual cart. Once finished, the shopper just walks out and the company charges their Amazon account, along with a receipt.
According to the company, the store has been in the works for four years. “We asked ourselves: what if we could create a shopping experience with no lines and no checkout?” says Amazon on the official Go site. “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?”
In its current form, the sole retail location is built specifically around meals — sounding more like an early 21st century version of an automat than a full-fledged grocery store, revolving around ready-to-eat meals and snacks prepared on-site (by humans, not robots, incidentally) along with Amazon Meal Kits that split the difference with 30 minute meal prep.
Of course, this isn’t Amazon’s first flirtation with retail. Last year the company opened Amazon Books, a then one-off bookstore also based in Seattle. And the company is reportedly looking to expand that presence in a big way with the addition of a number of pop-up shops across the US. And then there’s AmazonFresh, a grocery delivery service that has gradually rolled out in various US markets (again, starting with Washington State) over the course of the last several years.
With Go, a sort of culmination of those two efforts, Amazon becomes the largest presence in a recent trend to remove the lines (and human aspect) of checkout from the grocery shopping process, including Selfycart and, more prominently, Instacart, which has announced its intentions to move in that direction. The store will be open to all Amazon customers at some point early next year. If past instances are any indication, this could be the start of something big.