After much anticipation, Amazon, one of the biggest companies, recently opened a store called “Amazon Go” to the public on January 22nd. Amazon Go was officially opened on December 5th in 2016, but this was only available for Amazon employees. Amazon Go sells mainly grocery items, but unlike any other store, Amazon Go is cashier-less. Using technology similar to that found in self-driving cars, such as computer vision and machine learning algorithms, people are able to take whatever items they want, and sensors detect which items have been taken, and by who. People who do shop at Amazon Go have to install the app on their phones, which adds items to the consumer’s online cart. You are allowed to enter the store only if you have the Amazon Go application on your phone, as there are small gates at the entrance where you are able to scan your phone with the app open, which opens the gate for you. Cameras are placed throughout the stores, and weight sensors on the shelves are able to detect when items have been taken. When you leave the store, a few minutes later, the items you took will be added to your Amazon account. Although this is a cashier-less store, there are still workers in the store, such as employees in sections with alcoholic beverages to check IDs before a customer is able to take any beverage. Additionally, there are workers there to assist customers.
Although the store is mostly successful, there have a been a few cases where people have taken items from the store, but were not charged for anything. Amazon Go vice president responded to these reports and said that there is no feature on the app for customers to say they did not get charged - because Amazon believes these incidents won’t happen often. Surprisingly, there seems to be no answer to why some people are not charged. For example, a New York Times reporter attempted to hide an item he took so that cameras would not detect it, but he was still charged. At the same time, a CNBC reporter shopped at Amazon Go on the first day and did not get a charged for an item despite not attempting to steal. Even though Amazon claims this does not happen often, people could have a chance of taking something expensive and not getting charged. One of the reasons why Amazon Go has built up much interest is because it is extremely convenient for customers because it removes the whole process of checking out items. Amazon plans to slowly implement more Amazon Go stores throughout America in the next few years. It is also a possibility for Amazon Go to implement this type of technology in the Whole Foods markets, after their huge purchase of the Whole Food grocery chain in 2017.
It will no doubt be exciting to see more stores opened soon, but these types of stores also do not provide as many jobs as normal stores, as cashiers won’t be needed. In fact, if Amazon Go does eventually become widespread, there could be about 3.5 million cashier jobs threatened. Despite this, it is cool to see Amazon pushing the boundaries of machine learning even more, and as machine learning is getting more and more important in technology, it is exciting to see what more can be achieved. It is equally interesting to see how these mechanized devices change the daily lives of people.
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