Amazon Attempts to Put The ‘Convenience’ in Convenience Store

The New York Times has a short piece (with lots of photos) on Amazon’s new Go store opening this week is Seattle. The store is opening a year later than Amazon originally said it would but the premise is fascinating.

There are no checkouts or registers. You enter the store using the app, take what you want off the shelves and then just leave. The store detects what products you put in your bag and charges you.

Amazon made a video:

It is apparently smart enough to notice if you put something back and not charge you for it.

Amazon being Amazon, they don’t say much about the technology other than buzzword bingo (“deep learning”, “computer vision”, “sensor fusion”.)

GeekWire did some digging a little over a year ago and had an interesting report that cites some patent applications. One of the tidbits in that piece is a patent suggesting that if the store has difficulty figuring out whether you just picked up a bottle of mustard or a bottle of ketchup, they might use data from your previous purchases to determine which it is more likely to be.

While I am intrigued by the idea, I wonder if it feels (as the NYT reporter mentions) stressful at first when you simple leave a store “without” paying. I get stressed sometimes walking into a supermarket with a bottle of water I bought somewhere else and feel oddly guilty when I am using the self-checkout that I am not paying for the drink, wondering if people think I am shoplifting. Of course that might say more about me than anything else.

The broader adoption of computer vision in retail is going to be a very interesting area to watch, with some interesting cultural changes sure to come as part of it.

Everything I need to know in life I learned from watching television.

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