Amazon's futuristic grocery store, Amazon Go, will open to customers in Seattle on Monday after more than a year of testing, reports Recode.
The store, first announced in December 2016, has been five years in the making, and was conceptualized by asking a question: "What can we do to improve on convenience?" The store uses machine learning and "advanced computer vision" in a bid to eliminate queues, checkouts and waiting times.
The shop sells all the things you'd expect a convenience store to sell -- salads, drinks, groceries, meat, ready meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as some of Amazon's own "meal kits" -- except there are hardly any human shop assistants.
Upon entering the store, shoppers need to scan a smartphone app on the turnstiles. After this, by using computer vision, the store's numerous cameras and sensors can identify a person as they walk into the store. They pick up what they'd like to buy and then walk out of the shop, as if they haven't paid for it -- except the items they've picked up have been identified by the sensors and the correct amount is charged to the shopper's Amazon account.
As well as the convenience of not having to wait in line, it also means it's fairly tricky to steal something -- tech that other supermarkets may find handy in the future.
Originally, Amazon had numerous problems with this, including difficulties when someone picked something up and then put it down again, or when two people who looked alike or were dressed similarly were in the shop at the same time. This may be the reason why the shop is opening a year later than planned -- it's been in testing with Amazon employees since December 2016, with a scheduled opening of "early 2017," but it seems perfecting the technology took Amazon longer than it had thought.
There are a few drawbacks to the store, however. Namely, there can only be 97 people in it at one time, which will mean queues may be likely when it officially opens, or for the lunch rush. However, this number is greatly improved compared to the testing phase when only 20 could be in the store at any one time.
Another drawback of the store is that humans are occasionally needed to verify purchases or ID, and to sort out any problems. A human ID checker is situated near the alcohol section, while a human is occasionally needed to check the technology got it right.
There have been rumours Amazon may bring the futuristic stores to the UK, if trademark applications are to be believed. That said, there's only one of these stores in existence at the moment, in Amazon's home town of Seattle, so don't hold your breath. For an in-depth look at the store, see Recode's article, which includes a "hands-on" visit. (See Amazon May Bring Checkout-Less Supermarkets to the UK.)